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A Man Called White 

Also by Walter White 






The Autobiography of 


New York • The Viking Press 






Acknowledgment is made to the Saturday Review 
of Literature in which parts of Chapters I and 
XLIII appeared in an article called “Why I Re- 
main a Negro” and to The Reader* s Digest, which 
reprinted it. 



For My Sister Madeline 


I. / heam What I Am 3 

II. A Family in Atlanta 13 

in. A Jew Is Lynched 13 

IV. Atlanta Negroes Unite 28 

V. In Which I “Pass’^ 39 

VI. I Decline to Be Lynched 44 

VII. I Almost Join the Klan 52 

VIII. Jimcrow in Europe and Harlem 60 

IX. A Wife, a Book, and a Hospital 65 

X. A Black Tide Flows Northward 72 

XI. Gilding the Lily-White Vote 80 

XII. Villa Sweefum 92 

XIII. Al Smith and the Negro Vote 99 

xrv. The Man in the Lily-White House loa 

XV. The Civil War in Washington 1 20 

XVI. Jimcrow on a Freight Car 125 

XVII. Death of a Citizen 1 34 

XVIII. Ada Sipuel and Others “Similarly Situated’’’ 1 39 

XIX. N ot Content with Preaching 166 

XX. Handshake from a Son 174 

XXI. Hugo Black and the N AACP 177 

XXII. Marian Anderson and the DAR 180 

xxiu. Fighters Wanted— No Negroes 186 


viii Cements 

XXIV. Mother Stops Climbing Stairs 195 

XXV. Wendell Willkie and the Good Fight 198 

XXVI. The Fifth Estate 206 

XXVII. Turn to the Left at Detroit 211 

XXVIII. No Social Experiments, Flease! 220 

XXIX. Machine Guns and Tear Gas in Detroit 224 

XXX. Harlem Boils Over 233 

XXXI. “/ Seen Them Work” 242 

XXXII. Good Enough to Unload Ships 253 

XXXIII. Eyes on the Negro Vote 262 

XXXIV. Purity in the Pacific 271 

XXXV. jimerow in the South Pacific 277 

XXXVI. Cloudy Tomorrow 294 

XXXVII. Freedom House-Warming 301 

XXXVIII. *^Read and Run” 308 

XXXIX. Johnny (Black) Comes Marching Home 322 

XL. The President Is Helpless 329 

XLi. Children Grow Up 336 

XLii. No Road Back to Atlanta 344 

xLiii. All Shadows Are Dark 361 

Index 367 

A Man Called White 


/ Learn What I Am 

I am a Negro. My skin is white, my eyes are blue, my hair is blond. 
The traits of my race are nowhere visible upon me. Not long ago I 
stood one morning on a subway platform in Harlem. As the train 
came in I stepped back for safety. My heel came down upon the 
toe of the man behind me. I turned to apologize to him. He was a 
Negro, and his face as he stared at me was hard and full of the 
piled-up bitterness of a thousand lynchings and a million nights in 
shacks and tenements and “nigger towns.” “Why don’t you look 
where you’re going?” he said sullenly. “You white folks are always 
trampling on colored people.” Just then one of my friends came up 
and asked how the fight had gone in Washington— there was a fili- 
buster against legislation for a permanent Fair Employment Prac- 
tices Committee. The Negro on whose toes I had stepped listened, 
then spoke to me penitently: 

“Are you Walter White of the NAACP? I’m sorry I spoke to 
you that way. I thought you were white.” 

I am not white. There is nothing within my mind and heart which 
tempts me to think I am. Yet I realize acutely that the only char- 
acteristic which matters to either the white or the colored race— the 
appearance of whiteness— is mine. There is magic in a white skin; 
there is tragedy, loneliness, exile, in a black skin. Why then do I 
insist that I am a Negro, when nothing compels me to do so but my- 

Many Negroes are judged as whites. Every year approximately 
twelve thousand white-skinned Negroes disappear— people whose 
absence cannot be explained by death or emigration. Nearly every 


4 A Man Called White 

one of the fourteen million discernible Negroes in the United States 
knows at least one member of his race who is “passing”— the magic 
word which means that some Negroes can get by as whites, men 
and women who have decided that they will be happier and more 
successful if they flee from the proscription and humiliation which 
the American color line imposes on them. Often these emigrants 
achieve success in business, the professions, the arts and sciences. 
Many of them have married white people, lived happily with them, 
and produced families. Sometimes they tell their husbands or wives 
of their Negro blood, sometimes not. Who are they? Mostly people 
of no great importance, but some of them prominent figures, in- 
cluding a few members of Congress, certain writers, and several 
organizers of movements to “keep the Negroes and other minorities 
in their places.” Some of the most vehement public haters of 
Negroes are themselves secretly Negroes. 

They do not present openly the paradox of the color line. It is I, 
with my insistence, day after day, year in and year out, that I am a 
Negro, who provoke the reactions to which now I am accustomed: 
the sudden intake of breath, the bewildered expression of the face, 
the confusion of the eyes, the muddled fragmentary remarks— “But 
you do not look ... I mean I would never have known ... of course 
if you didn’t want to admit . . .” Sometimes the eyes blink rapidly 
and the tongue, out of control, says, “Are you sure?” 

I have tried to imagine what it is like to have me presented to a 
white person as a Negro, by supposing a Negro were suddenly to 
say to me, “I am white.” But the reversal does not work, for whites 
can see no reason for a white man ever wanting to be black; there 
is only reason for a black man wanting to be white. That is the way 
whites think; that is the way their values are set up. It is the startling 
removal of the blackness that upsets people. Looking at me without 
knowing who I am, they disassociate me from all the characteristics 
of the Negro. Informed that I am a Negro, they find it impossible 
suddenly to endow me with the skin, the odor, the dialect, the 
shuffle, the imbecile good nature, traditionally attributed to Ne- 
groes. Instantly they are aware that these things are not part of me. 
They think there must be some mistake. 

There is no mistake. I am a Negro. There can be no doubt. I 

/ Learn What I Am 5 

know the night when, in terror and bitterness of soul, I discovered 
that I was set apart by the pigmentation of my skin (invisible 
though it was in my case) and the moment at which I decided that I 
would infinitely rather be what I was than, through taking advan- 
tage of the way of escape that was open to me, be one of the race 
which had forced the decision upon me. 

There were nine light-skinned Negroes in my family: mother, 
father, five sisters, an older brother, George, and myself. The house 
in which I discovered what it meant to be a Negro was located on 
Houston Street, three blocks from the Candler Building, Atlanta’s 
first skyscraper, which bore the name of the ex-drug clerk who had 
become a millionaire from the sale of Coca-Cola. Below us lived 
none but Negroes; toward town all but a very few were white. Ours 
was an eight room, two-story frame house which stood out in its 
surroundings not because of its opulence but by contrast with the 
drabness and unpaintedness of the other dwellings in a deteriorating 

Only Father kept his house painted, the picket fence repaired, 
the board fence separating our place from those on either side white- 
washed, the grass neatly trimmed, and flower beds abloom. Mother’s 
passion for neatness was even more pronounced and it seemed to 
me that I was always the victim of her determination to see no single 
blade of grass longer than the others or any one of the pickets in the 
front fence less shiny with paint than its mates. This spic-and- 
spanness became increasingly apparent as the rest of the neighbor- 
hood became more down-at-heel, and resulted, as we were to learn, 
in sullen envy among some of our white neighbors. It was the 
violent expression of that resentment against a Negro family neater 
than themselves which set the pattern of our lives. 

On a day in September 1906, when I was thirteen, we were 
taught that there is no isolation from life. The unseasonably oppres- 
sive heat of an Indian summer day hung like a steaming blanket over 
Atlanta. My sisters and I had casually commented upon the unusual 
quietness. It seemed to stay Mother’s volubility and reduced Father, 
who was more taciturn, to monosyllables. But, as I remember it, no 
other sense of impending trouble impinged upon our consciousness. 

I had read the inflammatory headlines in the Atlanta News and 

6 A Man Called White 

the more restrained ones in the Atlanta Constitution which reported 
alleged rapes and other crimes committed by Negroes. But these 
were so standard and familiar that they made—as I look back on it 
now— little impression. The stories were more frequent, however, 
and consisted of eight-column streamers instead of the usual two- or 
four-column ones. 

Father was a mail collector. His tour of duty was from three to 
eleven p.m. He made his rounds in a little cart into which one 
climbed from a step in the rear. I used to drive the cart for him from 
two until seven, leaving him at the point nearest our home on Hous- 
ton Street, to return home either for study or sleep. That day Father 
decided that I should not go with him. I appealed to Mother, who 
thought it might be all right, provided Father sent me home before 
dark because, she said, “I don’t think they would dare start anything 
before nightfall.” Father told me as we made the rounds that ominous 
rumors of a race riot that night were sweeping the town. But I was 
too young that morning to understand the background of the riot. 
I became much older during the next thirty-six hours, under circum- 
stances which I now recognize as the inevitable outcome of what 
had preceded. 

One of the most bitter political campaigns of that bloody era was 
reaching its climax. Hoke Smith— that amazing contradiction of 
courageous and intelligent opposition to the South’s economic ills 
and at the same time advocacy of ruthless suppression of the Negro 
—was a candidate that year for the governorship. His opponent was 
Clark Howell, editor of the Atlanta Constitution^ which boasted 
with justification that it “covers Dixie like the dew.” Howell and 
his supporters held firm authority over the state Democratic machine 
despite the long and bitter fight Hoke Smith had made on Howell 
in the columns of the rival Atlanta Journal, 

Hoke Smith had fought for legislation to ban child labor and rail- 
road rate discriminations. He had denounced the corrupt practices 
of the railroads and the state railway commission, which, he charged, 
was as much owned and run by northern absentee landlords as were 
the railroads themselves. He had fought for direct primaries to 
nominate senators and other candidates by popular vote, for a cor- 
rupt practices act, for an elective railway commission, and for state 

/ Learn What I Am 7 

ownership of raikoads-issues which were destined to be still fought 
for nearly four decades later by Ellis ArnalL For these reforms he 
was hailed throughout the nation as a genuine progressive along with 
La Follette of Wisconsin and Folk of Missouri. 

To overcome the power of the regular Democratic organization, 
Hoke Smith sought to heal the feud of long standing between him- 
self and the powerful ex-radical Populist, Thomas E. Watson. Tom 
Watson was the strangest mixture of contradictions which rotten- 
borough politics of the South had ever produced. He was the bril- 
liant leader of an agrarian movement in the South which, in alliance 
with the agrarian West, threatened for a time the industrial and 
financial power of the East. He had made fantastic strides in uniting 
Negro and white farmers with Negro and white industrial workers. 
He had advocated enfranchisement of Negroes and poor whites, 
the abolition of lynching, control of big business, and rights for the 
little man, which even today would label him in the minds of con- 
servatives as a dangerous radical. He had fought with fists, guns, and 
spine-stirring oratory in a futile battle to stop the spread of an 
industrialized, corporate society. 

His break with the Democratic Party during the ’90’s and the 
organization of the Populist Party made the Democrats his impla- 
cable enemies. The North, busy building vast corporations and in- 
dividual fortunes, was equally fearful of Tom Watson. Thus was 
formed between reactionary Southern Democracy and conservative 
Northern Republicanism the basis of cooperation whose fullest 
flower is to be seen in the present-day coalition of conservatives in 
Congress. This combination crushed Tom Watson’s bid for national 
leadership in the presidential elections of 1896 and smashed the 
Populist movement. Watson ran for president in 1904 and 1908, 
both times with abysmal failure. His defeats soured him to the point 
of vicious acrimony. He turned from his ideal of interracial de- 
cency to one of virulent hatred and denunciation of the “nigger.” 
He thus became a natural ally for Hoke Smith in the gubernatorial 
election in Georgia in 1906. 

The two rabble-rousers stumped the state screaming, “Nigger, 
nigger, nigger!” Some white farmers still believed Watson’s aban- 
doned doctrine that the interests of Negro and white farmers and 

8 A Man Called White 

industrial workers were identical. They feared that Watson’s and 
Smith’s new scheme to disfranchise Negro voters would lead to dis- 
franchisement of poor whites. Tom Watson was sent to trade on his 
past reputation to reassure them that such was not the case and 
that their own interests were best served by now hating “niggers.” 

Watson’s oratory had been especially effective among the cotton 
mill workers and other poor whites in and near Atlanta. The Atlanta 
Journal on August i, 1906, in heavy type, all capital letters, printed 
an incendiary appeal to race prejudice backing up Watson and 
Smith which declared: 

Political equality being thus preached to the negro in the ring papers 
and on the stump, what wonder that he makes no distinction between 
political and social equality? He grows more bumptious on the st t, 
more impudent in his dealings with white men, and then, when he cannot 
achieve social equality as he wishes, with the instinct of the barbarian to 
destroy what he cannot attain to, he lies in wait, as that dastardly brute 
did yesterday near this city, and assaults the fair young girlhood of the 
south • . . 

At the same time, a daily newspaper was attempting to wrest 
from the Atlanta Journal leadership in the afternoon field. The new 
paper, the Atlanta News, in its scramble for circulation and adver- 
tising took a lesson from the political race and began to play up in 
eight-column streamers stories of the raping of white women by 
Negroes. That every one of the stories was afterward found to be 
wholly without foundation was of no importance. The News cir- 
culation, particularly in street sales, leaped swiftly upward as the 
headlines were bawled by lusty-voiced newsboys. Adanta became 
a tinder box. 

Fuel was added to the fire by a dramatization of Thomas Dixon’s 
novel The Clansman in Atlanta. (This was later made by David 
Wark Griffith into The Birth of a Nation, and did more than any- 
thing else to make successful the revival of the Ku Klux Klan.) The 
late Ray Stannard Baker, telling the story of the Atlanta riot in 
Along the Color Line, characterized Dixon’s fiction and its effect 
on Atlanta and the South as “incendiary and cruel.” No more apt 
or accurate description could have been chosen. 

During the afternoon preceding the riot little bands of sullen, evil- 

/ Learn What I Am 9 

iooking men talked excitedly on street corners all over downtown 
Atlanta. Around seven o’clock my father and I were driving toward 
a mail box at the corner of Peachtree and Houston Streets when 
there came from near-by Pryor Street a roar the like of which I had 
never heard before, but which sent a sensation of mingled fear and 
excitement coursing through my body. I asked permission of Father 
to go and see what the trouble was. He bluntly ordered me to stay 
in the cart. A little later we drove down Atlanta’s main business 
thoroughfare, Peachtree Street. Again we heard the terrifying cries, 
this time near at hand and coming toward us. We saw a lame Negro 
bootblack from Herndon’s barber shop pathetically trying to out- 
run a mob of whites. Less than a hundred yards from us the chase 
c ted. We saw clubs and fists descending to the accompaniment 
of savage shouting and cursing. Suddenly a voice cried, “There goes 
another nigger!” Its work done, the mob went after new prey. The 
body with the withered foot lay dead in a pool of blood on the 

Father’s apprehension and mine steadily increased during the eve- 
ning, although the fact that our skins were white kept us from at- 
tack. Another circumstance favored us—the mob had not yet grown 
violent enough to attack United States government property. But I 
could see Father’s relief when he punched the time clock at eleven 
p.M. and got into the cart to go home. He wanted to go the back 
way down Forsyth Street, but I begged him, in my childish excite- 
ment and ignorance, to drive down Marietta to Five Points, the heart 
of Atlanta’s business district, where the crowds were densest and the 
yells loudest. No sooner had we turned into Marietta Street, how- 
ever, than we saw careening toward us an undertaker’s barouche. 
Crouched in the rear of the vehicle were three Negroes clinging to 
the sides of the carriage as it lunged and swerved. On the driver’s 
seat crouched a white man, the reins held taut in his left hand. A 
huge whip was gripped in his right. Alternately he lashed the horses 
and, without looking backward, swung the whip in savage swoops 
in the faces of members of the mob as they lunged at the carriage 
determined to seize the three Negroes. 

There was no time for us to get out of its path, so sudden and 
swift was the appearance of the vehicle. The hub cap of the right 

lo A Man Called White 

rear wheel of the barouche hit the right side of our much lighter 
wagon. Father and I instinctively threw our weight and kept the 
cart from turning completely over. Our mare was a Texas mustang 
which, frightened by the sudden blow, lunged in the air as Father 
clung to the reins. Good fortune was with us. The cart settled 
back on its four wheels as Father said in a voice which brooked no 
dissent, “We are going home the back way and not down Marietta.” 

But again on Pryor Street we heard the cry of the mob. Close to 
us and in our direction ran a stout and elderly woman who cooked 
at a downtown white hotel. Fifty yards behind, a mob which filled 
the street from curb to curb was closing in. Father handed the 
reins to me and, though he was of slight stature, reached down and 
lifted the woman into the cart. I did not need to be told to lash the 
mare to the fastest speed she could muster. 

The church bells tolled the next morning for Sunday service. But 
no one in Atlanta believed for a moment that the hatred and lust for 
blood had been appeased. Like skulls on a cannibal’s hut the hats 
and caps of victims of the mob of the night before had been hung 
on the iron hooks of telegraph poles. None could tell whether each 
hat represented a dead Negro. But we knew that some of those 
who had worn the hats would never again wear any. 

Late in the afternoon friends of my father’s came to warn of more 
trouble that night. They told us that plans had been perfected for 
a mob to form on Peachtree Street just after nightfall to march 
down Houston Street to what the white people called “Darktown,” 
three blocks or so below our house, to “clean out the niggers.” 
There had never been a firearm in our house before that day. Father 
was reluctant even in those circumstances to violate the law, but he 
at last gave in at Mother’s insistence. 

We turned out the lights early, as did all our neighbors. No one 
removed his clothes or thought of sleep. Apprehension was tan- 
gible. We could almost touch its cold and clammy surface. Toward 
midnight the unnatural quiet was broken by a roar that grew 
steadily in volume. Even today I grow tense in remembering it. 

Father told Mother to take my sisters, the youngest of them only 
six, to the rear of the house, which offered more protection from 
stones and bullets. My brother George was away, so Father and I, 


/ Learn What I Am 
the only males in the house, took our places at the front windows 
of the parlor. The windows opened on a porch along the front side 
of the house, which in turn gave onto a narrow lawn that sloped 
down to the street and a picket fence. There was a crash as Negroes 
smashed the street lamp at the corner of Houston and Piedmont 
Avenue down the street. In a very few minutes the vanguard of 
the mob, some of them bearing torches, appeared. A voice which we 
recognized as that of the son of the grocer with whom we had 
traded for many years yelled, “That’s where that nigger mail carrier 
lives! Let’s burn it down! It’s too nice for a nigger to live in!” In 
the eerie light Father turned his drawn face toward me. In a voice 
as quiet as though he were asking me to pass him the sugar at the 
breakfast table, he said, “Son, don’t shoot until the first man puts 
his foot on the lawn and then— don’t you miss!” 

In the flickering light the mob swayed, paused, and began to flow 
toward us. In that instant there opened up within me a great aware- 
ness; I knew then who I was. I was a Negro, a human being with an 
invisible pigmentation which marked me a person to be hunted, 
hanged, abused, discriminated against, kept in poverty and igno- 
rance, in order that those whose skin was white would have readily 
at hand a proof of their superiority, a proof patent and inclusive, 
accessible to the moron and the idiot as well as to the wise man and 
the genius. No matter how low a white man fell, he could always 
hold fast to the smug conviction that he was superior to two-thirds 
of the world’s population, for those two-thirds were not white. 

It made no difference how intelligent or talented my millions of 
brothers and I were, or how virtuously we lived. A curse like that 
of Judas was upon us, a mark of degradation fashioned with 
heavenly authority. There were white men who said Negroes had 
no souls, and who proved it by the Bible. Some of these now were 
approaching us, intent upon burning our house. 

Theirs was a world of contrasts in values: superior and inferior, 
profit and loss, cooperative and noncooperative, civilized and ab- 
original, white and black. If you were on the wrong end of the 
comparison, if you were inferior, if you were noncooperative, if 
you were aboriginal, if you were black, then you were marked for 
excision, expulsion, or extinction. I was a Negro; I was therefore 

12 A Man Called White 

that part of history which opposed the good, the just, and the en- 
lightened. I was a Persian, falling before the hordes of Alexander. 
I was a Carthaginian, extinguished by the Legions of Rome. I was 
a Frenchman at Waterloo, an Anglo-Saxon at Hastings, a Confed- 
erate at Vicksburg. I was the defeated, wherever and whenever there 
was a defeat. 

Yet as a boy there in the darkness amid the tightening fright, 1 
knew the inexplicable thing— that my skin was as white as the skin 
of those who were coming at me. 

The mob moved toward the lawn. I tried to aim my gun, wonder- 
ing what it would feel like to kill a man. Suddenly there was a vol- 
ley of shots. The mob hesitated, stopped. Some friends of my 
father’s had barricaded themselves in a two-story brick building just 
below our house. It was they who had fired. Some of the mobsmen, 
still bloodthirsty, shouted, “Let’s go get the nigger.” Others, afraid 
now for their safety, held back. Our friends, noting the hesitation, 
fired another volley. The mob broke and retreated up Houston 

In the quiet that followed I put my gun aside and tried to relax. 
But a tension different from anything I had ever known possessed 
me. I was gripped by the knowledge of my identity, and in the 
depths of my soul I was vaguely aware that I was glad of it. I was 
sick with loathing for the hatred which had flared before me that 
night and come so close to making me a killer; but I was glad I 
was not one of those who hated; I was glad I was not one of those 
made sick and murderous by pride. I was glad I was not one of those 
whose story is in the history of the world, a record of bloodshed, 
rapine, and pillage. I was glad my mind and spirit were part of the 
races that had not fully awakened, and who therefore had still 
before them the opportunity to write a record of virtue as a memo- 
randum to Armageddon. 

It was all just a feeling then, inarticulate and melancholy, yet re- 
assuring in the way that death and sleep are reassuring, and I have 
clung to it now for nearly half a century. 

A Family in Atlanta 

The Atlanta riot naturally stands out in my memory as a shocking 
awakening to the cruelty of which men driven by prejudice, igno- 
rance, and hatred can be guilty. What I saw then has made me hate 
violence of every sort with implacable and ineradicable loathing. But 
it also served as a contrast to the everyday life of a normal thrifty 
and happy middleclass family. 

Father and Mother were both so light-skinned that either could 
have passed for white. Father was born in Augusta, Georgia; Mother 
in the cotton mill town of Lagrange, seventy miles southwest of 
Atlanta. Father’s family were exceedingly poor and devout. They 
wished desperately to give their only child the education he wanted 
so much. They could do little to aid, but he persuaded them to let 
him go to Atlanta when he had completed grammar school. Neither 
Augusta nor any other Georgia city or town provided high school 
education for Negroes at the time, although they did for white 
youth. Even today the same condition applies in most of the towns 
and villages of the state. Fortunately for Father and others like him, 
tuition and living expenses at Atlanta University on both the high- 
school and college level were modest. Father worked at odd jobs 
to eke out a meager and, I fear, a not too cheerful life. He had com- 
pleted high school and his freshman year in college when a double 
tragedy overcame him. His father and mother both died within a 
short time. When the debts were paid nothing was left, and Father 
was forced to leave the University. 

He had no profession, of course, nor had he learned any trade. 
Virtually the only means by which Negroes in the South could 


14 A Man Called White 

earn a fairly decent wage combined with security in those days was 
employment in the post office. So Father took and passed the civil 
service examination for letter carrier and went to work. Dollar by 
dollar he laid aside whatever money he could until the total 
reached J500.00, with which he purchased a lot on Houston Street, 
at that time on the far outskirts of Atlanta. Once more he began 
a long period of saving, living at a level of frugality little better than 
mere subsistence, until he had accumulated enough to build a modest 
five-room house. 

Mother had meantime completed her education and returned to 
Lagrange to teach. They were married there in October 1882, and 
returned to Atlanta to the sparsely furnished cottage where Mother 
characteristically plunged in on her lifelong war against every ves- 
tige of dust or dirt within range. The next year my brother, George, 
was born, to be followed during the next seventeen years by five 
sisters and myself. I stand in respectful awe and admiration of the 
job they did, financing such a home and family on the microscopic 
salary which Father earned. During most of his life it was one hun- 
dred dollars a month, that sum being increased many years later 
by twenty-five dollars for maintenance of a horse and mail collec- 
tor’s cart (for which Father had to pay). A decade later the family 
income was modestly increased by thirty or forty dollars a month. 
This came from the rental of the cottage which had been moved 
back to permit building a larger house, made necessary by the reg- 
ular additions to the family. 

Although there were times when Mother told us we could not 
afford some of the innumerable things children always ask of their 
parents, so skilled was Mother’s management and so sharp her pride 
that we never knew how really poor we were. It was true that the 
price of foodstuffs was far lower than now, yet, even so, the way 
she managed to feed us on her small food budget was little less than 
a miracle. Although Mother’s skill with the needle was perhaps 
somewhat less than genius, she more than made up for it in quan- 
tity production of dresses and other garments for my sisters and 
shirts for Father, George, and me. 

On Mondays by five o’clock in the morning Mother’s arms were 
immersed in the first of many tubs of washing, aided by each of the 

A Family in Atlanta 15 

children as soon as she or he was large enough to help. Wednesdays 
were for ironing and Saturdays for putting up quantities of jellies 
and preserves and canned vegetables in season, shopping, and all 
the other tasks of maintaining a well-run household. Similarly every 
other day had its allotted program. 

To no other man I have ever known has a very personal God been 
so real as was Father’s to him. To Father He was no vengeful, hu- 
morless being off in some far place. He was instead a very friendly 
sort of Deity with whom one enjoyed a quiet, warm relationship 
too precious to be endangered by overfrequent or demanding sup- 
plication. Unlike many of the churchy people I knew who con- 
stantly babbled of what good Christians they were and thereby 
built up a vigorous suspicion of their sanctity. Father seldom talked 
of religion or attempted to press his beliefs upon others, even his 
own family. He would discuss God and religion more often with 
me than with my brother or sisters, chiefly because we habitually 
spent four hours together each weekday, and three on Sunday, in 
the mail cart, which naturally provided the setting for talk on many 

In that sanctuary of heaped-up mail, faintly redolent of mucilage 
and canvas. Father and I invariably but amicably would take the 
opposite sides of the questions we discussed. It was only by accident 
years later I learned that Father did this deliberately to spur me 
to study and read whatever was available to find substantiation for 
my arguments. He never forgot to remind me of my own statement 
during one of our discussions of God. Father had mentioned the 
omnipotence and omniscience of God. Brashly I ventured to deny 
this. “If God is omnipotent as you say He is, why doesn’t He just 
decree that each of us be free of sin and weakness, and then devote 
the enormous amount of time thus saved to more productive uses? 
If God is really all-powerful. He wouldn’t have to work through 
fallible human minds and hearts, without which He apparently can 
do nothing.” 

I shall never forget the benign yet triumphant smile on Father’s 
face as he paused so long to reply that I turned to where he stood 
on the step of the cart to see how he reacted to such blasphemy. 

“That is just my point,” he answered. “God is omnipotent, but He 

i6 A Man Called White 

chooses to work through human instruments like you and me and 
every other human being on earth. Never forget that He needs 
your brain and heart to work His will.” 

To the day of his death, and particularly after I had begun to 
work with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored 
People, Father used to write to me of his happiness and pride that, 
in the work I was attempting to do to wipe out race prejudice, 
“God is using your brain and heart.” For days after such a letter 
arrived I would be subdued in spirit because of this exaggerated 
opinion of Father’s, which I was often tempted to deny. I did not 
do so, because that simple belief seemed to compensate him for the 
workridden and selfless life he had lived to give his children the 
best opportunity for education he and Mother could afford. 

The heavy hand of a strict Puritan Sunday which Father absorbed 
from the New England teachers at Atlanta University patterned the 
Sabbath in our home. Industrious preparations for that day began 
on Saturday, when every rug in the house was hung over a clothes- 
line in the yard and beaten until the last microscopic speck of dirt 
was driven out. Coal scuttles in kitchen, dining room, and bedrooms 
had to be filled to the brim, and kindling chopped with which I laid 
early Sunday morning fires. Saturday afternoon was the time when 
shoes for all the family had to be “blacked” with a sticky paste 
which smelled of some acid and which could be softened only by 
generous and frequent applications of spit. Trips to the market, 
whitewashing fences, feeding and watering the horse, and whatever 
other chores Mother’s extraordinarily fertile brain could devise, 
filled the other hours. Saturday’s final chore was to stoke the kitchen 
stove until it was red-hot to heat enough water for baths for all 
our large family. 

On Sunday morning we dressed and solemnly descended to the 
parlor for prayer. This was a room used only for weddings, funerals, 
Sunday prayers, and equally important occasions. Antimacassars 
decorated each of the chairs and the sofa. A bell-shaped glass dome 
shielded a spray of artificial flowers. A stout family Bible with its 
diamond-shaped mirror on the cover dimly reflected the morning 
sunlight, and a glass-doored bookcase filled with bound sets of the 
classics and Dr. Eliot’s Five-Foot collection created an atmosphere 

A Family in Atlanta 17 

which banished whatever ebullience any of us might be feeling, as 
effectively as though we were entering a cathedral. 

There was no time on weekdays for more than the briefest bless- 
ing of food by Father. But Sundays were different. None of us 
dared be late for eight o’clock devotions. That gave an hour and a 
half for prayer and breakfast before the children were sent to Sun- 
day school at the First Congregational Church, which was half a 
block away at the corner of Houston and Courtland Streets. Re- 
lieved of the pressure of time, Father quietly gloried in the luxury 
of leisure in which to advise with God. 

Those Sunday mornings are always associated in my mind with 
sore knees and slippery horsehair. Each of the children would ar- 
range himself quietly and as comfortably as possible on sofa or chair, 
the upholstering of which sloped sharply downward both in the 
rear and in the front. The younger children were bedeviled by fear 
of Father’s displeasure at squirming on the one hand or, on the 
other, of slipping on the treacherous horsehair if the ridge became 
so uncomfortable as to make shifting one’s position necessary. 
Mother always sat near the door so that she could go out quietly 
if the smell of scorching rolls required. 

When we were seated and silent. Father would hand the Bible 
to one of us to select and read a chapter. The reading finished, we 
knelt while Father reported with considerable detail to the Lord on 
a variety of matters in the White household and neighborhood, 
his reports interlarded with respectful but firm intimations that 
one or two of them had not been handled by Heaven with as com- 
plete wisdom as might have been desirable. With equal firmness, 
but fitting deference. Father made suggestions on how events of 
the coming week should go. 

Father’s concentration on his conversation with the Deity was 
never too great, however, to keep him from half-opening his eyes 
in a minatory survey of his audience to see if each of us was respect- 
fully on his knees. I was always a skinny child whose kneecaps had 
no protection of flesh. After the first few minutes of kneeling the 
agony became so unbearable that I would shift unobtrusively side- 
wise to a position from which I could speedily bounce back to my 

1 8 A Man Called White 

knees if Father’s head turned in my direction. But not always was I 

alert enough. 

When we had recited the Lord’s Prayer, Father would open 
ceremoniously the sliding double doors between parlor and dining 
room, occasionally with gently acid comment by Mother if the 
prayers had been too long and the rolls were scorched. 

We loved Sunday breakfasts. Mother’s rolls emitted a lovely fra- 
grance of yeast and golden butter, and there was fried chicken or 
fish, the omnipresent hominy grits, and steaming coffee, followed by 
thin slices of sweet Rocky Ford cantaloupes. By dividing them with 
mathematical precision Mother could make one large melon do for 
eight or nine of us. Unhappily, the melon season in those pre- 
hothouse days was all too short. Consequently most of the year 
the breakfast fruit was either stewed prunes, or dried apples cooked 
after soaking overnight and served liberally sugared and cinnamoned. 

I did not mind Sunday school, but found it almost insufferable to 
sit still on the handsome but hard pews during the long church 
services at eleven. 

Spring or summer, autumn or winter, the schedule for Sunday 
afternoons was identical. As soon as the dinner dishes were washed 
Father solemnly marched up the stairs to his room for an afternoon 
nap, followed by the rest of us. However much we might have been 
tempted to dawdle or to seek refuge in some part of the house where 
it was cooler in summer or warmer in winter, it never occurred to 
us to do so. 

For no other reason than to escape boredom, I experienced on 
these Sunday afternoons the only desire to study my school lessons. 
But that was sternly forbidden by Father as sinful on the Sabbath. 
The same prohibition applied to the reading of any novel less than 
twenty-five years old. I never learned the formula by which Mother 
and Father arrived at the conclusion that a work of fiction became 
pure by attainment of the age of a quarter of a century, while the 
most moral novels, if new, were sinful. 

I had read over and over again by the time I was twelve or thir- 
teen years old each of the meager stock of books in the glass-doored 
mahogany bookcase in the parlor. These included Shakespeare, 
Dickens, Thackeray, Trollope, and some of the Harvard Classics. 

A Family in Atlanta 19 

These were supplemented by books from the church library, and 
by the time I was twelve I had read a rather large number of good 

Before it was rebuilt, the First Congregational Church was a 
charming red brick structure with a wide lawn surrounded by an 
iron picket fence. The lawn was a kind of private playground for 
the children of church members. But we often had to do battle to 
protect our bailiwick from the gangs of white boys on Courtland 
Street. Although the warfare was intermittent and usually produc- 
tive of nothing more serious than a bloody nose or bruised knuckles, 
we derived a certain joy from it. We were more often victorious 
than defeated, chiefly, as I remember it now, because a defending 
force had certain tactical advantages over an attacking body. If 
the white boys called up reserves, we could always find refuge in 
the church. 

But it was too bad for anyone who was caught alone. At the cor- 
ner of Cortland Street was a watering trough for horses. Occasion- 
ally thirsty humans patronized it also; you pressed down on a handle 
and contorted your body so as to get your face under the spigot. 
Mother, who was a fanatical foe of germs and dirt in any form, for- 
bade our drinking from the fountain lest we contract some fearful 
disease. But for some mysterious reason the water of this fountain 
always seemed much more delicious than that from one of Mother’s 
spotlessly shining cut-glass tumblers. 

One day as I was drinking from the forbidden fountain one of 
the white boys of the neighborhood crept up behind me and pushed 
sharply the back of my head, causing my nose to bang against the 
spigot and my face and clothing to be showered with water. Shak- 
ing the water from my eyes, I ran after the boy, who yelled derisive 
remarks about “niggers drinking from white fountains.” Forgetting 
in my rage that I was following him into enemy territory, I became 
increasingly infuriated as he lengthened his lead. Knowing I could 
not overtake him, I picked up a stone and threw it with unaccus- 
tomed accuracy, hitting him on the back of the head. I saw him 
stagger and clutch his head, the blood oozing between the fingers. 
My anger changed to cold terror. I had hit and injured a white 
boy and, knowing that a white policeman, judge, and jury would 

20 A Man Called White 

take his word, I saw myself being sent away to prison for a long 


Forgetting the groceries I had been on my way to purchase, I 
ran home sobbing to Mother, begging her to whip me. Somehow 
or other I felt that if she did so I would thereby escape other 
punishment. Instead of sympathizing with me. Mother roared with 
laughter, remarking that she would be grateful if I would specify 
for which one of my many misdeeds I was asking to be punished. 
Expecting a burly policeman to put in his appearance any minute, 
I had no time to supply a bill of particulars. 

“Never mind what for,” I pleaded, “just whip me— whip me 

But now Mother was laughing so hard that she sat down to wipe 
the tears from her eyes with her apron. Sure enough the door bell 
rang long and insistently. Mother went to the front door to face 
the irate mother of the boy I had hit, while I, then about eight 
years old, peered in terror from behind Mother’s skirts. 

“I am going to have the law on that boy of yours,” she screamed, 
“for hitting my poor little boy.” Sternly Mother turned to me and 
demanded that I tell her what had happened. My story finished. 
Mother turned upon the woman and so vigorously defended me that 
the unwelcome visitor’s anger soon cooled under Mother’s threat to 
have the other boy arrested for attacking me first. So convincing 
was Mother that soon my fear vanished and I began to preen my- 
self as something of a hero. That mood did not last long. As soon as 
her visitor had left. Mother turned and ordered me to go into the 
back yard and get some switches from the peach tree. These she 
peeled to make their sting more memorable. Thereafter I managed 
to quench my thirst at home instead of from the forbidden fountain. 

Mother believed no less in God, but her rules of conduct were 
less Spartan than Father’s. After his death she even permitted bridge- 
playing in her home. Once when she was visiting in New York I 
offered her a drink, assuring her that she need have no qualms, be- 
cause it had been made by monks. Not wholly believing me, she 
turned to my wife to ask if I were telling the truth. Gladys assured 
her that it had been made by Benedictine monks. With this assur- 
ance that she was not sinning. Mother tossed off the powerful 


A Family in Atlanta 
liqueur in one gulp. A few minutes later Aunt Alice, Mother’s only 
sister and equally talkative, called to visit and, accepting Mother’s 
lead, also drank a glass of the benedictine. 

“It’s nothing but sweet water, Alice, and made by the monks,” 
Mother assured her. 

My dismay rose higher and higher as the two in their innocence 
waxed gayer and gayer as the contents of the bottle rapidly dis- 

Father had believed with absolute devotion that “wine is a 
mocker.” Once, a few weeks after I was born, he had been dan- 
gerously ill with typhoid fever. They tried to get him to take a 
tablespoon of brandy as a stimulant. Though only half-conscious. 
Father demanded to know what they were giving him and on being 
told, clenched his teeth tightly, refusing to “face my Maker with 
liquor on my breath.” 

Father and Mother were of medium height though, as women do, 
she appeared somewhat taller. Father’s skin, though naturally very 
light, was deeply tanned from many years of exposure to sun and 
wind in his work as a mail carrier. His hair was brown, as were 
his eyes. Mother had almost severely aquiline features, with light 
blue eyes and the most golden hair that I have ever seen. Theirs 
must have been a difficult life as they guided themselves and us 
along the course between the Scylla of white hostility and the 
Charybdis of some Negroes’ resentment against us because we oc- 
cupied a slightly more comfortable and better-kept home and were 
less dark than they. 

The streetcars of Atlanta were places where interracial conflict 
most often occurred. Whites were supposed to sit from the front of 
the car toward the rear and Negroes were required to sit from the 
rear toward the front. If Mother and my sisters boarded a car and 
sat in the “Negro” section they were often objects at best of em- 
barrassing stares and remarks and not infrequently of insults and 
other indignities from white male passengers. If they had sat in the 
“white” section they would have been accused by some Negroes 
of “passing.” It was because of this that Father indulged in the 
only extravagance I ever knew about when he bought the surrey. 


A Man Called White 
The shining vehicle was more a burden to me than a joy, because 
it was my" job to keep it cleaned and greased and to drive it when 
Mother wished to go calling on her friends. 

I did not understand at the time the probable significance 
of an episode involving Father and the surrey. One day I entered 
the carriage house, in the front of which stood the mail cart and 
at the rear the surrey. I was barefoot, so I made no sound on the 
soft earth. Father stood by the surrey stroking the patent-leather 
mudguard. It was the one moment of his life when I saw him extract 
joy from anything except complete selfless service to his family 
and his God. 

When he became aware of my presence he snatched his hand 
away from the carriage with almost the same appearance of guilt 
as I had when Mother caught me with my hand in the great stone 
crock of pickled peaches. Almost gruffly he sought to explain his 
action. ‘The surrey is awfully dusty,’* he said. “Get a cloth and 
wipe it off.” 


A Jew Is Lynched 

For my first job, which I took at the age of ten, I was paid the 
munificent salary of fifty cents a week. My employer was 1. Kalish, 
who operated a small tailor shop on Peachtree Street opposite the 
Grand Opera House. I reported for work at seven in the morning, 
swept out the store and dusted, washed two small front windows, 
and started out about nine to collect suits to be drycleaned and 
pressed, returning them to their owners in the afternoon. After I 
had worked a month my salary was raised to seventy-five cents a 
week. This, with occasional tips, brought my earnings sometimes as 
high as a dollar and a half a week. 

During later summer vacations I worked one year as office boy for 
a doctor and another in the same capacity for a bibulous and unsuc- 
cessful artesian well driller. However, I soon became impatient with 
wages no higher than three or four dollars a week. A number of 
my friends told me of earning as much as a dollar a day plus tips as 
bellboys or waiters in Atlanta’s hotels. Over Mother’s objections, be- 
cause she feared the kind of “carryings on” I would see, I applied 
one summer for a job as bellboy at the Piedmont Hotel, then Atlan- 
ta’s most luxurious. 

I got a job as page-boy and wore the most gaudy and glamorous 
uniform of all time. It was a rich purple woolen, which, with a few 
alterations, fitted me like wallpaper. Three rows of globular but- 
tons, one from the collar button straight down and the other two 
from the shoulders down to the waist, were matched by other 
buttons on the sleeves and as much gold braid as that of an admiral 
of the fleet. A brimless cap, also adorned with gold braid and brass 


24 A Man Called White 

buttons, was perched saucily on the side of my head. Tips were 
good, sometimes running as high as a dollar or more a day, which, 
added to the wage of a dollar, seemed like more money than any 
other person in Atlanta possessed. 

I had been working a week or so when I discovered I was “pass- 
ing”— the job of page having been hitherto a “white” job. Again 
panic assailed me. I went to Fred Toomer, now a successful insur- 
ance executive of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, who was 
captain of the Piedmont Hotel bellboys. He was an athletic hero 
of mine as the hard-hitting third baseman of the Atlanta Univer- 
sity baseball team. I found consolation in Fred. 

“Mr. Dutton did not ask you if you were white or colored. It’s 
a good job and you’re doing it well. All he can do to you is to 
fire you. You are making good money, so go ahead and earn it 
until you are fired,” was his advice. 

I decided to stick on the job, but it was not easy. When Mr. 
Dutton offered me the position of key clerk the following year, 
however, at a salary of a hundred dollars a month plus board and 
room, I found that I couldn’t sail under false colors any longer. To 
cleanse my conscience I blurted that I could not accept the job of 
key clerk, as I did not want to get him into difficulty. He heard me 
through to the end of my confession. 

“You are better educated and better bred than most of my 
clerks,” he told me. “I’m from New Hampshire, and the fact that 
you are a Negro makes no difference to me. But I am operating a 
hotel in the South and my guests would leave if they found out 
that you were colored. But I wish you luck.” 

I decided to get a job as colored in another hotel, because I needed 
the wages and tips which could be earned as a bellboy— higher 
than in any other temporary employment open to Negroes in 
Atlanta. I had to earn money to help Father pay my tuition and 
other expenses at Atlanta University. In the new job I began with 
startling speed my education in the facts of life and particularly, to 
borrow Langston Hughes’s phrase, “in the ways of white folks.” 
What I saw and heard there made it impossible for me ever again 
to be taken in by the white man’s boast of the superiority of his 
morals over those of the Negro. 

A Jew Is Lynched 25 

The summer before my senior year at Atlanta University was 
spent working harder and earning less money than almost any other 
period of my life. Although I could have returned to bell-hopping 
or waiting on table, I had become disgusted with that kind of life 
and particularly at the treatment a Negro had to endure from 
patrons in a Southern hotel. I applied for and was given employ- 
ment during the summer selling policies for the Standard Life In- 
surance Company. 

I soon learned that the market of prospects in Atlanta had been 
so thoroughly covered by more experienced salesmen that it would 
be a waste of time for me to remain there. I set out, therefore, for 
smaller towns and rural areas. I was given no salary or expense ac- 
count, my compensation consisting of a percentage of the premiums 
on the insurance which I sold. I could not afford to rent an automo- 
bile or even a horse and buggy. That summer I walked more miles, 
usually under a broiling sun, than at any period of my life. But I 
learned a lot from talking with whites of these rural areas, espe- 
cially when they believed me to be of their own race. 

Invariably, since I was from Atlanta, they asked me about the 
Leo M. Frank case. A young white factory girl had been raped 
and murdered in an Atlanta pencil factory of which Frank was 
president. Suspicion had fastened on him and, to a lesser extent as 
a possible accessory, on a Negro janitor. Frank was not only a Jew 
but a “damyankee” from New York. Under “normal” circumstances 
no one would have thought of accusing a white man had he been 
gentile and Southern. The guilt of the Negro would have been 
the inevitable assumption and he would have been lynched or tried, 
convicted, and executed. Because of Frank’s religion and place of 
birth the case developed into a clash of prejudice in which anti- 
Northern and anti-Semitic hatreds had been whipped to such a 
frenzy that the usual anti-Negro prejudice was almost forgotten. 

Frank was tried in a courtroom packed to capacity, with many 
of the spectators openly armed. A howling mob filled the grounds 
around the courthouse. Open threats against the jurors, if they did 
not return a prompt verdict of guilty, were shouted incessantly. It 
was inevitable that under the circumstances a verdict of guilty 
of murder in the first degree would be brought in by the jury. The 

26 A Man Called White 

verdict was promptly appealed by powerful Jewish organizations, 
because Frank at the time of his arrest was president of the B’nai 
B’rith. Despite brilliant presentation of the appeal the United States 
Supreme Court confirmed the verdict of the Georgia court, ruling 
that as long as a state court observed the form of a trial the federal 
government had no right to go beyond the form and inquire into 
the spirit which dominated the trial. 

I never dreamed at the time that five years later I would investi- 
gate a trial similarly dominated by a mob; but when that time came, 
I remembered many of the conversations I had held about Frank 
and his trial as I went about the country selling insurance, and what 
I learned through them. 

Frank’s conviction so shocked Governor John M. Slaton of 
Georgia that, although it meant political suicide for him, he com- 
muted the death sentence to life imprisonment. A mob attempted to 
lynch the Governor. Only his courage in facing them, and the in- 
tervention of the police, saved his life. 

Actually Frank was one more racial victim of Southern political 
ambition. Hugh M. Dorsey, who had prosecuted him, was riding 
triumphantly on the crest of popular approval in his campaign for 
the governorship. Thomas E. Watson, running for ofiice as United 
States senator, seized upon the Frank case and used his weekly 
newspaper. The Jeffersonian, to win popular approval through 
preaching race hatred. 

A few days after the commutation of his sentence a mob entered 
the state prison, took Frank to Marietta where Mary Fagan, the 
murdered girl, had been bom and was buried, and lynched him. 

Soon after that Thomas Watson was elected to the United States- 
Senate, and Hugh Dorsey to the governorship of Georgia. 

I returned to Atlanta to enter college with only a few dollars 
to show for my summer’s work. In addition to playing not too good 
football, serving as president of my class, being a member of the 
university debating team, and a few other extracurricular activities 
of that sort, I worked throughout the school year preparing for the 
Standard Life Insurance Company simple mathematical tables deal- 
ing with net and deferred premiums and preparing actuarial tables 
which required simply care and die following of formulae. 

A Jew Is Lynched 27 

At a forum in Kansas City several years ago a member of the audi- 
ence asked me to tell of some of my experiences in investigating 
race riots and lynchings, and I complied with that request. After the 
meeting had adjourned a sensitive-faced man came to the platform 
to ask, “How have you managed to escape hate? I would imagine 
that you would despise every white face you see after the horrible 
experiences you have had.” 

For a brief moment a wholly unjustified glow of smug satisfac- 
tion came over me as I mentally congratulated myself at escaping 
the corrosive effect of hating groups of people because of the sins 
of some of their members. My smugness was short-lived. It dawned 
upon me for the first time how indebted I was to the unselfish and 
brilliant men and women who had forsaken their homes in New 
England to go south to teach in a school like Atlanta University. 
There they had been subjected to ostracism and sometimes insult 
from Southern whites for teaching and associating on a basis of 
complete equality with Negroes. Many of them were so well-trained 
and able that they could have earned much larger salaries and lived 
in far greater comfort in the North. They had been moved by a 
selfless devotion to a cause in which they passionately believed— 
education for the Negro on the same basis as for others. 

The Kansas City question caused me at the time, and many times 
since, to realize the debt I owe to men like Professor Edgar N. Web- 
ster, handsome and brilliant professor of physics. He and his family, 
and those of President Edward Twichell Ware, Dean Myron W. 
Adams, Miss Mabel D. Hancock, Miss Idella M. Swift, and others 
demonstrated to us, even in prejudice-ridden Georgia, that not all 
white people were infected with delusions of racial superiority and 
opposed to progress for the Negro. It was they who saved me from 
the defeatist belief that all whites are evil and bigoted in their atti- 
tude toward dark-skinned peoples. 


Atlanta Negroes Unite 

My four years of college, though they seemed interminable at the 
time, passed all too quickly. Before I had time to realize what was 
happening I stood, diploma in hand, uncertainly facing the task 
of determining upon a career. I was offered the principalship of an 
American missionary school at Albany, Georgia, which flattered me 
immensely but which a brief teaching experience as a substitute dur- 
ing my senior college year caused me to decline speedily and firmly. 

Fortunately my work as a salesman of insurance during the pre- 
ceding summer, and my part-time work for the Standard Life In- 
surance Company during my senior year, brought me an offer of a 
job as clerk in that organization and I started to work the morning 
after my graduation. The pay was most modest, but my expenses 
were small since I was living at home. Evenings and Saturday after- 
noons I devoted to selling insurance. Not long afterward I was 
promoted to the position of cashier, which was less imposing and 
responsible than it sounds. My duties consisted of receiving pre- 
miums when paid in person and listing remittances by mail, turning 
over the checks and money orders and cash to the bookkeeper, who 
meticulously checked my reports and solemnly gave me receipts. 
My salary remained the same as it had been as a clerk, but I had 
the warming satisfaction of signing receipts in handwriting which I 
sought to make businesslike. The promotion had another advantage 
—it disproved, I hoped, the prediction which had been freely made 
that I was too young and too much interested in having a good 
time to do a responsible job satisfactorily. 

In an effort to conceal my youth I began to grow a mustache, but 


Atlanta Negroes Unite 29 

even this, unfortunately, helped little: at its most luxuriant period it 
was hardly visible, since it turned out to be a delicate champagne 
color. As a matter of fact, it never has amounted to much. It was 
years later that it evoked a scoffing comment from Arthur B. Spin- 
gam. A particularly inhuman lynching had just occurred in a 
Southern state which I was eager to investigate. The Board of 
Directors of the NAACP was reluctant to let me go because previ- 
ous investigations had been so publicized that they feared it would 
be dangerous for me to go South. “I’ll let my mustache grow,” I 
pleaded, “and then no one will recognize me.” 

Arthur looked at me pityingly and then laughed. Said he: “No- 
body but your sweetheart would ever know you had a mustache!” 

One Sunday after church in the autumn of 1916 a group of us 
sat talking in the offices of the Standard Life. We had learned the 
day before that the Atlanta board of education was planning to 
save enough money to build a new high school for white students 
by eliminating the seventh grade from the colored grammar schools. 
Two years before this, the eighth grade had been abolished from 
the colored schools, the saving thus effected being given to the white 
schools. Because no protest had been made by Negroes then, it was 
obviously believed by the board of education that there would be 
none now. 

Despair and consternation had descended on Negro Atlanta. 
There were no high schools of any description for colored students, 
although Negroes were taxed for maintenance of the school system 
at the same rate as whites on two million dollars of Negro-owned 
property. As for grammar schools, only fourteen were provided for 
a Negro population of more than seventy-five thousand. Thirteen 
of that number were very old and dilapidated wooden structures 
which, in addition to being fire hazards, were so overcrowded that 
double and triple sessions were necessary to accommodate the over- 
flow. The one brick building for Negro children had been erected 
for and used by whites until a new modern one was built for them. 
Parents of Negro children who wished their children to receive an 
education beyond the seventh grade had to pay tuition for that 
instruction at schools like Atlanta University, which were forced to 

30 A Man Called White 

maintain high school departments because of the failure of Georgia 

communities to furnish high school training. 

And now the Negro seventh grade was to go. “ ‘Unto every one 
that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him 
that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath,’ ” patri- 
archal Jackson McHenry sadly observed at church that morning. 
Many of the older generation like Mr. McHenry advised caution 
and submission to prevent angering the dominant whites. But those 
of us who sat in the office felt that the line of surrender and com- 
pliance had to be drawn somewhere. What could we do? Negroes 
were votcless, outnumbered, helpless. 

Harry Pace presented the only hopeful and concrete suggestion 
—that we write to the then fledgling National Association for the 
Advancement of Colored People at its New York headquarters to 
obtain their advice and aid. Someone else— I believe it was Carter 
Brown who had worked in New York for the NAACP— said we 
ought to form a branch in Atlanta. I was delegated to write the 
letter, and sat down to do so immediately. We felt less helpless when 
the letter had been mailed. 

Before a reply could be received we learned to our dismay that 
some informer— a local Uncle Tom— had rushed to the board of 
education to tell them that Negroes, for the first time in the history 
of Atlanta, were planning to protest. Despite the apparent futility 
of such objection or the ease with which the board could dismiss it, 
the oflicials became alarmed at such unprecedented and bold action. 
They decided to move forward the date of the meeting and give 
no publicity to the change, to vote abolition of the Negro seventh 
grades and make that action a jait accompli before the “impudent, 
radical Negro delegation” made its appearance. However, just as 
the board of education had its informers, so did we have ours, and 
thereby we learned of the change of date for the meeting. 

They would not permit me to be a member of the delegation 
which was appointed to appear before the board because I was “too 
young and hot-headed,” but I was made a member of the commit- 
tee to draft the petition which would be presented to the board. A 
few thought we should limit our demands to retention of the 
seventh grades; others of us were equally insistent that as taxpayers 

Atlanta Negroes Unite 31 

and citizens we should demand high schools^ both regular and 
technical, new and more modern grammar schools, and every other 
facility being given to white students. Our point of view won. In a 
document of nearly twenty-five hundred words, we boldly de- 
manded for the Negro children of Atlanta educational facilities in 
every way the equal of those enjoyed by their white contem- 

Tall, dignified, and handsome Dr. William F. Penn, graduate of 
Yale University and stepfather of Dr. Louis T. Wright, who was 
destined later to serve as chairman of the board of directors of the 
NAACP, acted as chairman of the committee to present the peti- 
tion to the board of education. Harry H. Pace, Dr. John Hope, 
Benjamin J. Davis, Sr., head of the Negro Odd Fellows of Georgia 
and chairman of the Georgia State Republican Committee, and 
other members of the committee, respectfully but vigorously backed 
up Dr. Penn’s plea. 

Little effort was made by the board to conceal its amazement and 
resentment at Negroes’ daring to question or oppose the will of the 
white majority of Atlanta or the plans of the board to do as it 
willed about education for Negroes. To listen to hitherto docile 
Negroes bluntly saying that they would no longer submit to edu- 
cational discrimination and injustice was as though a mouse had 
turned on a terrier many times its size. 

To our astonishment, and the discomfiture of other members of 
the board, the presentation received unexpected support from James 
L. Key, who was later to be mayor of Atlanta. He had listened with 
deep concentration to the statements of Dr. Penn, Mr. Pace, and 
Mr. Davis. When they had finished, Mr. Key rose and with 
troubled voiced declared to his fellow board members: 

“Gentlemen, I want to plead guilty to every word these men have 
spoken. We have the government in our hands, we control the 
finances, and we should be derelict to our duty if we did not grant 
their demands.” 

Mayor Asa G. Candler, head of the Coca-Cola Company, jumped 
to his feet and shouted angrily, “I do not agree with the gentleman 
who has just spoken. I do not wish to plead guilty. Let us not give 
way to hysteria but look at this matter in a sane manner.” 

32 A Man Called White 

Mr. Key refused to be sidetracked. He turned to the Mayor and 
heatedly answered, “The seat of all hysteria in this city is in the 
Mayor’s office and the chief professor of that science is the Mayor 
himself. I do plead guilty, and as long as I am a member of this 
board I pledge my word here today that I shall fight for the rights 
of these men. Every move that is for the giving of justice to them 
has my hearty support and I shall cast my vote against every move 
that tries to take away from them what is theirs.” 

We never found out what was said in executive session after the 
delegation left. But a few days later, to our delight, the board an- 
nounced that it had abandoned its plan to cut short the education 
of Negroes and had decided instead to float a bond issue to improve 
Atlanta schools. 

Although there were some who advised that, having won the 
skirmish of the eighth grade, decision should be left to the school 
authorities as to what part of the money from the bond issue would 
be applied to the deplorably inadequate and run-down colored 
schools, others believed we should leave nothing to chance and 
should secure as definite commitments as possible from the school 
board. Meanwhile, organization of the Atlanta branch of the 
NAACP was speeded in anticipation of the struggle ahead. Harry 
Pace was chosen as president and I was elected secretary. Our first 
public meeting had as speaker the great James Weldon Johnson, 
who, after a distinguished career as writer of Broadway successes 
with his brother Rosamond, and as United States consul to Nicaragua 
and Venezuela, had joined the small staff of the NAACP as field 

In the interim, our committee of Dr. Penn, Mr. Pace, and Mr. 
Davis appeared again before the board of education. They were 
told with brutal frankness and considerable profanity that none of 
the bond money was to be spent on Negro schools and that there 
was nothing colored citizens could do about it. Members of the 
board had been attacked in editorials in some of the Atlanta papers 
and ridiculed by many of their friends for being “whipped into line 
by niggers.” They were in no mood to incur further attacks and, 
although at least one member was not unsympathetic to at least 

Atlanta Negroes Unite 33 

patching up the Negro schools, the board voted unanimously against 
the request of our delegation. 

The job of keeping alive a determination to continue the fight 
was discouraging and eventually hopeless. We studied the law and 
found no legal basis there. We could find nothing in the Georgia 
State Constitution which could be used to force the Atlanta au- 
thorities to abide by the United States Supreme Court’s decisions 
that “separate” educational facilities for Negroes must be “equal” 
to those provided for whites. As all hope seemed gone, someone— I 
forget now who it was— proposed that we examine the city charter 
of Atlanta in order to learn what was required for the floating of 
bond issues. There we found the answer: the charter required affirm- 
ative approval of two-thirds of the registered voters, and not, 
fortunately for our purpose, two-thirds of those who actually took 
the trouble to vote. We counted on white voters’ neglecting— in 
the great American tradition— to vote on an issue in which no per- 
sonalities were involved. 

Our major hurdle was the poll tax. We started a house-to-house 
campaign through the third and fourth wards and on the west side 
where the Negro population was segregated. Patiently we explained 
the details of the issue. The response was immediate and heartening 
—in fact, so much so that we had to space out the appearance of 
Negroes at the City Hall lest there be time for a counter-campaign 
among the whites on the “Negro issue.” I shall never forget the 
excitement when one none-too-prosperous man paid back poll 
taxes with accrued interest for thirty-two years— a sum he could 
ill afford— in order to vote, even though all his children were long 
past grammar or high school age. When our opponents woke up 
and started belligerent and viciously anti-Negro tirades against 
“Negro domination,” the time was too short to register a large 
enough number of white voters to override the Negro vote. 

The James Weldon Johnson mass meeting in the moving picture 
theater in the Odd Fellows Building was so packed with eager-faced 
Negroes and even a few whites that we had difficulty wedging the 
platform party through the crowd to enter the auditorium. Mr. 
Johnson, calm, slender, and immaculate, stood hazardously on the 
narrow strip of stage between the footlights and a painted backdrop. 

34 A Man Called White 

characteristic of theaters of that day. The backdrop advertised the 
Gate City Drugstore, the Standard Life Insurance Company, the 
Atlanta Life, and other Negro business enterprises. There was none 
of the sonorous, flamboyant oratory of that era in the meeting- 
only the quiet, irrefutable presentation of the facts and the need to 
wipe out race prejudice before the hate thereby engendered de- 
stroyed both the victims and the perpetrators. 

One of the white members of the audience, a puzzled expression 
on his face, stopped me after the meeting to say, “This is a new doc- 
trine. I wonder how many white preachers in Atlanta have vision 
enough to see or say what Johnson said today. Imagine a Negro 
being as concerned about white people who kick him around as he 
is about his own race!” He shook his head as though to clear it of 
something which had not happened, and wandered off toward the 
white section of town. 

Two years later I heard Mr. Johnson tell a vast audience in New 
York’s Carnegie Hall that “the race problem in the United States 
has resolved itself into a question of saving black men’s bodies and 
white men’s souls.” This revolutionary doctrine caused that evening 
the same bewilderment and surprise on the faces of Charles Evans 
Hughes, the late Anna Howard Shaw, and a former governor of 
Alabama who spoke on the same program. 

It happened that at the Atlanta meeting I sat nearest to the 
platform, next to the gentle Dr. Hope. Suddenly I was called upon, 
to my dismay, to say a few words. Caught off guard, I nervously 
asked Dr. Hope what I should say. 

“Tell them about the NAACP,” he advised with a perfectly 
straight face. 

I launched into an impassioned and, I fear, a rabble-rousing speech. 

“We have got to show these white people that we aren’t going 
to stand being pushed around any longer. As Patrick Henry said, 
so must we say, ‘Give me liberty, or give me death!’ ” 

The audience loved it. But when I looked at the school principal 
his face was ashen with terror, as he saw his job go glimmering when 
news of the meeting got back to the superintendent and school 

Before Mr. Johnson left Atlanta, Mother and Father invited him 

Atlanta Negroes Unite 35 

to dinner. Throughout the meal he watched me, and I was inordi- 
nately pleased at the attention he paid to what I said and the number 
of questions he asked me. 

After he had returned to New York I received a letter from him 
saying that he had recommended to the NAACP board of directors 
that I be invited to join the staff of the Association as assistant sec- 
retary and that he had been authorized to ascertain whether I 
would be interested in such a job. To say I was startled is a most 
moderate description of my reaction. To accept would mean aban- 
donment of all the plans of financial security I had made. The job 
in New York would pay only twelve hundred dollars a year, which 
was less than I was then earning in salary and commissions from the 
sale of insurance and stock in the Standard Life. I paid only a 
modest sum each week to Mother for board, lodging, and laundry 
—far less than I would have to pay on my own in expensive New 
York. Mother was very vocal against my leaving home to live in 
“that Sodom and Gomorrah” of New York, where, she was certain, 
I would immediately succumb to all the fancy evils which she be- 
lieved lurked around every corner of Manhattan. Others whose 
advice I sought told me in varying degrees of frankness that I would 
be a fool to give up a bright financial future to devote myself to an 
almost hopeless cause. 

The NAACP did, indeed, seem to offer at the time a precarious 
future at best. It consisted of only 8,490 individuals distributed in 
76 branches, the membership of which ranged in number from one 
in St. Joseph, Missouri, to 692 in Boston. Its small staff of two offi- 
cials— Roy Nash as secretary and Mr. Johnson as field secretary— one 
volunteer worker, Mary White Ovington, and two clerical workers, 
Richetta G. Randolph as stenographer and Frank M. Turner as 
bookkeeper, never knew from payday to payday whether salaries, 
rent, postage, and printing bills could be paid. It seems hardly con- 
ceivable, as this is being written, in 1947, when the Association has 
more than 1500 branches and a membership close to 600,000, that 
such penury and peril could have constantly threatened the move- 
ment so short a time ago. 

The imminence of war and the possibility of being drafted was 
another circumstance which made me hesitate. While I debated 

36 A Man Called White 

the offer, a “flying squadron” of intensely patriotic young Negroes 
came to Atlanta during the courses of a Southern tour to induce 
Negroes to volunteer for the Negro officers’ training camp which 
the War Department under pressure was planning to open at Fort 
Des Moines, Iowa. For the first time in history, the city of Atlanta 
permitted Negroes to use the city auditorium for a meeting to whip 
up patriotism. Some of us were invited to sit on the platform. When 
an eloquent appeal for volunteers was made, I found myself spring- 
ing to my feet as one of the first to volunteer. 

We were ordered to near-by Fort McPherson a day or two later 
for physical examinations. In the group were two other men whose 
skins, like my own, were light enough in color to make it possible 
for them to “pass.” For some then unexplained reason we were asked 
to step aside, where we were scrutinized with none-too-friendly 
glances by several Army officers. We had no fear of failing to pass 
the physical-all three of us had participated in one or more sports, 
baseball, football, track— and were in top condition. We were totally 
wrong. All of us were rejected, while another fellow student, who 
had been the butt of campus jokes because of his frail and non- 
athletic physique, was accepted. We were all the more puzzled when 
we heard he had fallen in a dead faint the very first day on the 
parade grounds at Des Moines. 

Later we learned the reason why the three of us, so patently 
healthy, had been rejected. Wild rumors, born of guilty consciences 
no doubt, were sweeping the South that the “Huns” were industri- 
ously at work among Southern Negroes to spread unrest. These 
German agents and spies, so the tales ran, were capitalizing on Negro 
bitterness against lynching and race prejudice. Fantastic stories were 
believed that as soon as white soldiers went off to war, Negroes 
would rise up and massacre white people in their beds under the 
direction of the Kaiser’s agents. Obviously, light-skinned Negroes 
who could easily pass as white would be the kind the Kaiser would 

Two persons urged me to accept the NAACP offer. One was 
Father. We hitched the horse to the surrey and went for a long 
drive one afternoon, far out into the country past the Piedmont 
Driving Club. 

Atlanta Negroes Unite 37 

“Your mother and I have given you,” he told me quietly, “the 
best education we could afford, and a good Christian home training. 
Fortunately, it is better than most colored children have had. Now 
it is your duty to pass on what you have been given by helping 
others less fortunate to get a chance in life. I don’t want to see you 
go away. I’ll miss you. But remember always, God will be using 
your heart and brains to do His will. You’ll be misunderstood 
and criticized when you fight so difficult a battle as that created by 
the race problem. But decide, with the help of God, what’s right 
and don’t falter or turn back.” 

The other individual who urged me to go to New York was the 
brilliant surgeon. Dr. Louis T. Wright, who had only recently 
returned to Atlanta to practice medicine after a spectacularly suc- 
cessful career at the Harvard Medical School. Bluntly he told me, 
“You’d be a damned fool to stay here in Atlanta. Go to New York 
by all means. Life will mean much, much more to you when you 
are fighting for a cause than it possibly can if you stay here just 
to make money. You’ll stagnate and eventually die mentally.” 

I wrote Mr. Johnson my acceptance and told him I would report 
for work on January 31, 1918. It was hard to leave Atlanta in the 
midst of the bond issue fight; but— to jump ahead of my story— I 
was delighted when later Negroes voted in sufficient numbers to 
defeat the bond issue despite a most bitter campaign of vilification 
by the Atlanta papers, particularly the Atlanta Georgian. 

A new weapon for Negroes, the boycott, was used most effec- 
tively against that paper. Virtually every Negro subscriber canceled 
his subscription, and very few Negroes bought the paper from 
newsboys or news stands. Circulation dropped alarmingly. For the 
first time, the Georgian recognized the extent of Negro buying 
power. The newspaper’s pride and prejudices would not permit it to 
abandon or backtrack on its attacks on Negroes for opposing the 
bond issue. It sought to placate aroused Negro subscribers by deliv- 
ering the paper free, but such bribery proved equally ineffective. 
Many Negroes returned the papers, still rolled and folded as they 
had been, tossed into front yards and onto porches, to the Georgian's 
offices, or telephoned that they did not wish the publication on their 

38 A Man Called White 

Defeat of the bond issue placed the city of Atlanta in a most em- 
barrassing position. The city’s credit was not too good in the bond 
market anyway because of an already excessive bonded indebtedness 
and the inefficiency of management of the city’s fiscal affairs. War 
with Germany moved closer and closer with grim inevitability. 
Little time remained. Swallowing pride, the city’s officials asked 
representative Negroes what minimum concessions they would ac- 
cept in return for support of, or at least nonopposition to, another 
bond issue. 

As a result of the fight the Negroes of Atlanta made, the David 
T. Howard High School, named after a philanthropic and greatly 
loved Negro to whose farm we loved to go each summer for a 
magnificent barbecue, was erected, and the grade schools were 
patched up. 


In Which I ‘‘Pass” 

Mr. Johnson, who soon afterward urged me to call him “Jini,” met 
me on arrival in New York on a bitterly cold day and took me to 
the place where he had arranged for me to board. My landlady was 
a retired caterer and one of the three or four best cooks whose food 
I have been privileged to taste. She could, for example, prepare 
ninety-two different soups, and I never did decide during all the 
years I lived at her house which of the ninety-two was most deli- 

Early the morning after I arrived Jim took me to the office, where 
I was introduced to Roy Nash, who was leaving the office of secre- 
tary to join the Army, and the handsome John Shillady, who was 
taking Roy’s place. Richetta Randolph, who served as stenographer, 
confidante, and mentor to all of us, took me immediately under her 
protective wing, sensing with a woman’s sure intuition how scared 
and unsure of myself I was. Until the day of her retirement she 
teased me about my addiction to blushing whenever spoken to, a 
trait which I fear I have long since lost. 

Jim and I used to eat luncheon at the Automat, both because the 
food was good and inexpensive and because we could use the time 
saved by self-service to browse in Brentano’s bookstore. All the 
sales clerks knew and admired Jim, so that we could spend as much 
time without interruption as we wished. Thus began for me a liberal 
education in contemporary literature as Jim either purchased for 
me or recommended my buying books of fiction, poetry, and his- 
tory and discussion of social problems which he thought would be 
of permanent value. 


40 A Mm Called White 

On Lincoln’s birthday, twelve days after I began work with the 
NAACP, an incredibly horrible lynching was staged at Estill 
Springs, Tennessee. Jim and I read on the bus on the way to work 
the next morning how Jim Mcllherron, a Negro sharecropper, had 
been slowly burned to death by a mob for defending himself from 
a beating by his employer. As soon as we reached the office we 
talked with John Shillady as to what we could possibly do other 
than telegraph a protest to the governor, which, we knew, would 
do nothing more than possibly secure a few lines of publicity. I 
asked permission to go to the scene to make a first-hand investiga- 
tion. Jim vigorously opposed this because he feared injury or death 
for me if my purpose and racial identity were discovered. Even- 
tually, however, he gave reluctant consent, and thus I started a phase 
of work for the Association which neither it nor I had contem- 
plated when I was employed. 

My self-confidence steadily declined and my fear rose on the long 
train ride. I had learned, while an insurance agent in Georgia, enough 
of the cruelty of which Southern mobs were capable, and their fear 
and hatred of “outside interference in the affairs of the South,” to 
know I would be given short shrift if Mcllherron’s murderers found 
out why I was there. As I remember the experience, however, I be- 
lieved that I would be subjected to even greater fury for the sin 
of “passing” as a white man, which I had to do to induce the 
lynchers to talk freely. It was my first planned attempt to pass 
and, being so recently out of Georgia, I worried most because of 

Everything moved smoothly at the outset. The third-rate board- 
inghouse, fraudulently bearing a weatherbeaten sign reading 
“Hotel,” was run by a lanky and lazy individual whose ochre- 
colored skin was discolored by malaria and tobacco. Indolently 
waving in the general direction of my room to which I had to carry 
my own bag, he asked me in the same sentense my purpose in com- 
ing to Estill Springs and if I would be interested in buying a farm 
he owned which he described as “the best damned cotton land in 
Tennessee.” Taking the unexpected cue, I allowed as how I might 
at least be interested enough to look at the farm, and thereby gained 
a guide and sponsor. 

In Which I 

4 * 

Although I was forced to spend more time than I wished looking 
at eroded farms, I learned a great deal about sleuthing during those 
days. Located about halfway between Nashville and Chattanooga, 
the rural hamlet of Estill Springs nevertheless was as remote from 
the outside world as though it had been in Tibet. There were then 
of course no radios yet and only one newspaper a week penetrated 
the abysmal darkness— a copy of the Nashville Banner which the 
millowner of the town received. From early morning until night- 
fall and closing time, the country store was a forum and its stove a 
target for tobacco juice. There were no shades or grays of opinions 
—only the unequivocal black and white surveyed and discussed with 
the assurance of omniscience which comes from isolation and the 
absence of a desire for truth when truth is disturbing. I soon learned 
that a combination of such omniscience of the uninformed and the 
scarcity of excitement in such an atmosphere made it both unneces- 
sary and unwise to ask questions about the recent lynching. It was 
apparent that the inhabitants could not refrain from talking in my 
presence if only I were patient. 

The first few times the conversation veered toward the lynching I 
purposely exhibited eagerness to talk about politics or the weather 
or cotton-raising. My studied indifference and apparent ignorance 
of the fact that there had been any trouble began to become highly 
irritating to them. Even when they boasted and began to reveal 
far more than they realized as to the actual participants I deliber- 
ately intimated that I had known of much more exciting lynchings 
than that of Mcllherron. When local pride had thus been sufficiently 
disparaged, the facts came tumbling forth. It was difficult to sup- 
press evidence of my anger and nausea at the gruesome recital. The 
white man who had beaten Mcllherron had no just cause for doing 
so, they admitted, and he was universally distrusted and disliked in 
the community. When I asked why then they had taken such ter- 
rible vengeance on Mcllherron for refusing to submit to undeserved 
mistreatment from such a man, I was told “any time a nigger hits 
a white man, he’s gotta be handled or else all the niggers will get 
out of hand.” 

New York City looked even more attractive and safe than when 
I first reached it after I had returned from Estill Springs. Publica- 

42 A Man Called White 

tion of the facts I had uncovered created a modest sensation, par- 
ticularly when my Estill Springs informants discovered that not 
only was I not a prospective buyer of land but a Negro who had 
been housed and fed in their local “hotel.” On his next trip to Wash- 
ington Jim suggested that I accompany him to tell senators and 
congressmen the first-hand story of the Mcllherron burning at the 
stake to induce them to step up their efforts to enact federal legis- 
lation against mob violence. At that time the average number of 
lynchings annually was around two hundred, with additional mob 
murders unreported in the press. The overwhelming majority of 
Americans, including Negroes, accepted without question the belief 
that most lynchings were in punishment of rape of white women by 
Negroes. To ascertain and publish the truth the NAACP began a 
study, “Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States, 1889-1918,” 
which amazed those who read it when it revealed that less than one- 
sixth of the victims of more than five thousand lynchings had been 
accused even by the mobs themselves of sex crimes. 

It was Jim’s skillful hand which guided the efforts for passage of 
federal legislation against lynching during the twenties. I fre- 
quently joined him in appearing before Senate and House commit- 
tees and in the laborious work of buttonholing congressmen and 
senators to get them to work more vigorously. Year after year and 
session after session of Congress went by, and still no anti-lynching 
bill was enacted. We were able to secure the passage of the Dyer 
Bill by the House of Representatives; but invariably the bill would 
meet its death in the Senate through filibusters which still are pos- 
sible because of the archaic rules of the upper house, which permit 
each senator to speak twice for as long as his strength permits on 
any bill and any amendment thereto. 

However, the campaign for federal legislation publicized the facts 
about lynching. Each year we noted an increase in the number of 
Americans who dared speak out against the crime. Each year we 
noted a decrease even in the South of the number of public ofiicials 
and ministers of the Gospel who dared to defend lynching. Publica- 
tion of the first authentic study of mob murder helped to change 
editorial comment on lynching, particularly in its revelation of the 
falsi^ of the relation between lynchings and rape. Americans were 

In Which I 43 

astounded (some of them still are) to learn that fellow Americans 
have been put to death by mobs for such “crimes” as “being too 
prosperous for a Negro,” talking back to a white man, and for re- 
fusing to turn out of the road to let a white boy pass. 

These years, however, were not all devoted to work and tragedies. 
Jim and Grace, his beautiful and charming wife, were responsible 
more than any others for the so-called Negro Renaissance of the 
early twenties. Frequently their apartment was the gathering place 
of writers, poets, singers, and men and women of the theater. Many 
an evening we talked until long after midnight. The color line was 
never drawn at Jim’s. It was there that many who were later to do 
much in wiping out the color line learned to know each other as 
fellow human beings and fellow artists without consciousness of 

Sometimes there would be parties at my house or at the homes of 
one or another of those I met at Jim’s. Heywood Broun, Claude 
McKay, Fania MarinofF, and Carl Van Vcchten (who later estab- 
lished the invaluable James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection 
at Yale University), Langston Hughes, Eva and Newman Levy, 
Ruth Hale, Countee Cullen, Carl and Irita Van Doren, Marie Doro, 
Edna St. Vincent Millay, Sinclair Lewis, George Gershwin, Mary 
Ellis, Willa Gather, Blanche and Alfred Knopf, Walter Wanger, 
Joan Bennett, and many others who then enjoyed fame or were 
destined to achieve distinction in the arts, letters, or human relations 
were among those I was privileged to know. 


I Decline to Be Lynched 

The blood lust which World War One was too short to satiate made 
the year 1919 one of almost unmitigated horror and tension. Violent 
and bloody race riots broke out in Washington, Chicago, Omaha, 
Philadelphia; Phillips County, Arkansas, and other areas. John Shil- 
lady’s considerable experience in social work organizations and his 
skill at organization itself had resulted in the first large-scale mem- 
bership drive of the Association’s history, which had raised our 
membership to 35,888. In 1919, the first large annual conference at 
Cleveland made the Association far more widely known than it had 
ever been before. 

We needed all the strength we had gained and much more when 
the bloody summer of that year arrived. Jim investigated the Wash- 
ington riot. I was sent to Chicago, where without much difficulty 
I was able to secure evidence against some of the ringleaders of the 
riot, which I turned over to the mayor and prosecutor. What I 
learned there caused me more than ever before to understand the 
economic factors in race prejudice. 

Charles H. Dennis, the brilliant and famous editor of the Chicago 
Daily News, suggested to Carl Sandburg and to me that we ascertain 
the relationship between property values on the South Side, where 
the Negro section had materially expanded as a result of wartime 
migration, and the riot itself. What we found was startling. Prop- 
erty owners in the sections into which Negroes had moved or, more 
frequently, shrewd real estate agents, sold houses to Negroes at 
prices much higher than those which could have been obtained 
from white buyers. Barred by prejudice from purchasing homes in 


/ Decline to Be Lynched 45 

an open market, Negroes had to pay these prices or else stay in 
the crowded slums around State Street. Frightened owners, fearing 
devaluation of their properties as Negroes became their neighbors, 
sold their homes at considerable sacrifice to unscrupulous agents 
who promptly resold them at far above their real worth. It was 
inevitable that whites thus exploited would resent Negroes who 
they believed were responsible for the loss of much of their life’s 

In many cases, large houses were subdivided into one- and two- 
room apartments to be rented to home-hungry Negroes. Income 
from the houses was thereby multiplied. Meanwhile, the owners 
rushed to City Hall to claim and obtain lowered valuations and 
smaller taxes, on the spurious grounds that occupancy by Negroes 
made the property less valuable. With Negroes in the buildings, 
they were able also to spend less on repairs and general maintenance 
than was spent on apartment buildings occupied by whites. Thus, 
they benefited from a three-way advantage: higher rentals, lower 
taxes, and reduced upkeep. Houses which had brought an annual 
income of five or six per cent under white occupancy now brought 
returns of ten per cent or better. I have never been able to find 
a law of economics which explains why, when a return on an in- 
vestment is increased, the investment itself is considered less valuable 
merely because Negroes are involved. 

The Chicago riot taught me that there could be as much peril in 
a Northern city when the mob is loose as in a Southern town such 
as Estill Springs. I was constantly made aware in white areas, espe- 
cially the Halsted Street area near the stockyards, that eternal alert- 
ness was the price of an uncracked skull. I naively believed that I 
was well enough known in Negro Chicago, despite my white skin, 
to wander about at will without danger. This fallacy nearly cost me 
my life. One afternoon about dusk, I walked south on State Street 
to keep an appointment at the Binga State Bank located at the cor- 
ner of Thirty-seventh Street. I never knew what made me look 
down Thirty-sixth Place toward the Provident Hospital. At any 
rate, I did look just in time to see a Negro draw a bead on me with 
a revolver from behind a tree. I ducked as a bullet whanged into the 
side of the building exactly where my head had been a fraction 

46 A Man Called White 

of a second before. With most undignified speed, I gained the mag- 
nificent shelter of the bank and thereafter made sure to have as 
companion a Negro who was discemibly a Negro whenever I had 
business on the South Side. 

While I was in Chicago, notice was served on the national office 
of the NAACP that the organization could no longer operate in 
Texas until it had been chartered in that state. Although the ruling 
was manifestly designed to stop all operations of our branches in 
Texas, as it was quite certain that the state would never grant us 
a charter, and since other states would follow suit, the situation was 
such as to require prompt and vigorous action. The demand was 
also violative of usual procedure, since the NAACP was incorpo- 
rated by the State of New York. John Shillady went to Austin, 
Texas, the state capital, to talk the matter over with Governor 
Hobby (whose wife later commanded the WAC in World War 
Two) and the Texas attorney general, having first wired ahead re- 
questing appointments with those two officials. 

Two days later an Associated Press friend telephoned me that 
a wire dispatch had just come in stating that John was missing 
after having been beaten unmercifully on the streets of Austin and 
that it was believed that he might have been killed. Another dis- 
patch reported that John had been found and had boarded a train 
for New York. After he got back I heard the story. As he left his 
hotel on the way to keep the appointment with Governor Hobby, 
he had been set upon in open daylight on one of the main business 
streets of the Texas capital by a mob led by a judge and the sheriff. 
Not a hand had been raised in his defense. When the NAACP 
appealed to Governor Hobby to set in motion state machinery to 
apprehend and punish the known assailants. Hobby telegraphed that 
Shillady had got exactly what he deserved and that the same treat- 
ment would be accorded any other white man who dared interfere 
with Texas’ handling of its Negroes. 

John’s physical condition from the beating and die deterioration 
which followed from the crushing blows on his head was pitiful 
to watch. His great gaiety and warm smile disappeared. The superb 
efficiency which had been his was replaced by an indecisiveness 

/ Decline to Be Lynched 47 

as though he were paralyzed. As time went on he grew steadily 
worse instead of better and the Association’s work naturally suf- 
fered. A few months later he resigned and entered a hospital, from 
which he emerged several times only to return, until, not long 
afterward, he died— a victim of lynching as surely as any Negro 
who had been strung up to a tree or burned at the stake. 

When John resigned, Jim Johnson was elected secretary. The 
task he faced was a heartbreaking one. We had lost considerable 
ground and prestige by the months of inactivity due to John Shil- 
lady’s broken spirit. Delays in action had caused our already inade- 
quate income to drop alarmingly, since the Association then, as 
now, was financed by its membership dues and not by endowments 
or philanthropy. When Jim took over the secretaryship not only 
were we broke, we owed sizable debts for printing, rent, and other 
operating costs. Jim saw to it that the stenographers were paid, but 
he and I went without salary for as long as four months while we 
all worked desperately to place the Association on a sound financial 

The bloody summer of 1919 was climaxed by an explosion of 
violence in Phillips County, Arkansas, growing out of the share- 
cropping system of the South. The incident was fated to affect ma- 
terially the legal rights of both Negro and white Americans. 
Throughout the nation newspapers published alarming stories of 
Negroes plotting to massacre whites and take over the government 
of the state. The vicious conspiracy, so the stories ran, had been 
nipped in the bud, but it had been necessary to kill a number of 
the “black revolutionists” to restore law and order. [ 

I was eager to go to the scene, and left for Arkansas on the first 
train after we had scraped up enough money for my fare. Scipio 
A. Jones, a wise and courageous Negro lawyer, introduced me to 
three white lawyers who had been retained by the Negroes, two of 
whose names happened with mordant humor and appropriateness 
to be Winchester and Winchester. From them and Mr. Jones I 
learned the facts which, briefly, were as follows. 

A number of colored tenant farmers and sharecroppers in Phillips 
County had grown tired of working year after year, only to wind 
up each season in debt to their landlords, no matter what the quan- 

48 A Man Called White 

tity or price of cotton they had raised. There had been beatings 
and even lynchings when individual Negroes had dared to demand 
itemized bills for supplies bought at the landlords’ stores and an ac- 
counting of the weight and price of the crops they had raised. 

The harassed Negroes organized a meeting to confer with Messrs. 
Winchester and Winchester, from which developed the ambitiously 
titled Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America. Ar- 
ticles of incorporation for a fraternal organization were prepared 
(the cost of that type of association being considerably lower than 
others) which would pool the meager resources of the impoverished 
and exploited Negro farmers to pay for test cases in court when 
landlords refused accountings. The ray of hope which the plan 
promised caused the hitherto despairing farmers to flock enthusias- 
tically into the movement. At first, the plantation owners and 
merchants paid scant attention to the movement. The legal work of 
incorporation finished, Messrs. Winchester and Winchester collected 
their fee and retired in favor of another white lawyer in Little Rock 
by the name of U. S. Bratton, Bratton’s courage was as great as his 
skill in defense of his clients, many of whom were Negroes. He was 
respected and feared. His employment caused the landlords to take 
the new organization seriously because they knew Bratton would 
pull the cover from the unsavory system and, possibly, send some 
of them to federal prison for violation of the Thirteenth Amend- 
ment against slavery and the laws against peonage. 

At Bratton’s request a meeting was arranged at a small Negro 
church at Hoop Spur. The place was packed. Suddenly the audience 
was thrown into panic as fusillade after fusillade of bullets poured 
into the crowded church, killing a number of women and men 
and wounding others. Fortunately some of the Negroes had brought 
weapons with them, having learned of the mounting hostility of 
the white community against the attempt to organize. The fire of 
the attackers was returned and one of the assailants was killed. The 
match had been applied to the powder keg. Word was sped by 
telephone to every nook and cranny of Phillips County, the story 
being fantastically amplified with each telling of it. Within a few 
minutes efSciently directed, heavily armed mobs swept over the 
countryside hunting down and killing every Negro they could find. 

I Decline to Be Lynched 49 

I was never able to fix definitely the number of Negroes who were 
killed, but did gather evidence establishing a total in excess of two 

Every colored man, woman, and child who could do so fled the 
county, many of them by foot through the swamps and woods 
under cover of darkness during several days and nights of slaughter. 
Those who could not escape were herded in stockades where a 
self-appointed “Committee of Seven,” made up of white landlords 
and merchants, proceeded to conduct a kangaroo court to pass on 
which of the imprisoned Negroes were “guilty” and “bad niggers” 
and which were “good niggers.” The chief test of the latter classi- 
fication was proof that they had not joined and had disapproved 
of the farmers’ organization, and their agreeing to work without 
pay a specified length of time for designated employers. These 
were released. 

But seventy-nine men stubbornly refused to yield to intimidation, 
even though they knew their courage might cost their lives, either 
inside or outside the law. With a speed as great as that of assembling 
of the mob, the hapless and defenseless seventy-nine were indicted for 
murder, insurrection, and a variety of other “crimes.” The dingy 
courtroom at Elaine, the county seat, was jammed with openly 
armed men who loudly interrupted the trial at will to let the judge 
and jury know what they would do if speedy convictions did not 
materialize. Twelve of the defendants were found guilty and sen- 
tenced to die, and sixty-seven others were condemned to prison 
terms ranging from twenty years to life imprisonment, in trials 
which consumed slightly less than five days. 

I asked for and was granted an audience with Charles H. Brough, 
the governor. Introducing myself as a reporter for the Chicago 
Daily News and presenting as credentials a telegram from Charles 
H. Dennis, the managing editor of that paper, I purposely led him 
to believe that I had little knowledge of the Negro question and 
was open-minded to whatever facts he, as chief executive of the 
state, cared to give me. 

^ “I am delighted that a Northern newspaper has sent so able and 
experienced a reporter to answer the foul lies the Chicago De^ 
fender and that infamous National Association for the Advancement 

50 A Man Called White 

of Colored People have been telling about the good white people 

of Arkansas,” he boomed. 

He then proceeded, at considerable length, to give me the “truth.” 
Absolute lawlessness created by Northern “agitators” among the 
Negroes of Phillips County had existed, he alleged. The white 
people of the county had shown remarkable restraint and human 
kindness in putting down the insurrection, he assured me with great 
warmth. In a burst of warmth and Southern hospitality, he gave me 
a letter of identification, in which he called me “one of the most 
brilliant newspapermen he had ever met,” for me to use in Phillips 
County in case I ran into any difficulty there. 

Everything went well in Phillips County for me, thanks to the 
Governor’s letter. On the advice of Scipio Jones, I made no effort to 
talk with any of the Negroes. I had already talked with many 
refugees from the county in Little Rock, and those who were still 
there were too frightened to talk to an outsider. My chief concern 
was that when my investigation was publicized, reprisals might be 
visited on any Negro who had been seen talking with me. 

I did, however, want to talk with the prisoners who were still 
closely guarded in the county jail in Helena. I knew that it would 
probably be of little value, since the jailer or sheriff would probably 
insist on being present during the interview. I had sought to induce 
Sheriff Kitchen to let me talk with the prisoners alone, quite delib- 
erately trading on the story he had told me of a Negro soldier saving 
his son’s life during a battle in France. The Sheriff had been non- 
committal, saying he would meet me at the jail. 

As I walked down West Cherry Street, which ran parallel to the 
railroad track, a Negro overtook me. As he passed he said under 
his breath just loud enough for me and no one else to hear, “Mister, 
I’ve got something important to tell you— follow me.” He turned 
right at the next intersection, crossed the railroad tracks, and led 
me into a clump of woods far enough away to be out of sight. 

“I don’t know what you are down here for, but I just heard them 
talking about you— I mean the white folks— and they say they are 
going to get you. The way I figured it out is that if the white folks 
are so against you, you must be a friend of ours.” 

I asked him if he knew why they wanted to get me, but he had 

I Decline to Be Lynched 51 

no further knowledge. There were just two trains a day out of 
Helena-one which left in a few minutes and the other that night. 
I sped down the railroad tracks, keeping out of sight as much as was 
possible. Just as the train pulled in, I climbed aboard from the side 
opposite the station platform. The conductor looked at me quizzi- 
cally when I offered payment of my fare in cash. I explained to him 
that I had important business in Memphis that evening and had not 
had time to buy a ticket. 

“But you’re leaving, mister, just when the fun is going to start,” 
he told me. In answer to my question as to the nature of the “fun,” 
he replied, “There’s a damned yellow nigger down here passing for 
white and the boys are going to get him.” 

“What’ll they do with him?” I asked. 

Shifting his cud of tobacco, he shook his head grimly and assured 
me, “When they get through with him he won’t pass for white 
no more!” 

No matter what the distance, I shall never take as long a train 
ride as that one seemed to be. The train ambled along in an exas- 
peratingly leisurely fashion on a single track which ran most of the 
way to the Mississippi River through heavy woods which grew 
down to the track on either side. The lichen-covered trees grew so 
close together that even in open daylight the darkness was ominous. 
Arriving at the river’s edge, the train was run onto a barge which 
carried us across the Mississippi into the state of that name and 
northward to Memphis. 

Late that evening in Memphis I learned that news had been circu- 
lated there that I had been lynched in Arkansas that afternoon. 


I Almost Join the Klan 

Publication of my findings by the Chicago Daily News and through 
the Association’s press releases created a gratifying sensation. Our 
empty treasury began to be replenished by the contributions of both 
white and Negro Americans who were shocked by the story and 
wanted to aid in appealing the conviction of the seventy-nine de- 
fendants. Moorlield Storey, the president of the NAACP and one 
of America’s most distinguished authorities on Constitutional law, 
assumed personal direction of the appeals. We were faced with a 
seemingly insuperable obstacle in getting the federal courts to inter- 
vene. We knew that there was no hope for the defendants in the 
Arkansas courts, and that our only hope of saving the lives of the 
twelve who had been sentenced to death and of freeing the other 
sixty-seven lay in convincing the federal court that they had the 
constitutional authority to pass upon the trials and verdicts. 

The insuperable obstacle was the decision the United States Su- 
preme Court had rendered in the Leo M. Frank case, which had so 
stirred Georgia during the summer when I was selling life in- 
surance there. Since in this case the court had held that, so long as a 
state court had complied with the legalistic forms required under the 
“due process” clause of the federal Constitution, federal courts had 
no authority to go beyond the form of the trial and inquire into 
the spirit which had dominated it, and since this was precisely the 
issue and the only issue on which we could ask federal intervention 
in die Arkansas murders, we were pretty discouraged. But we 
started what then seemed almost a hopeless fight. 

The details of the five-year struggle in the Arkansas and the lower 

/ Almost Join the Klan 53 

federal courts would consume too much space here if they were 
told. Three times gallows were built for execution of the twelve 
Negroes. Three times we were able to secure writs to stay the exe- 
cution. Eventually a writ of certiorari was granted by the Supreme 
Court and a date set for argument before that tribunal. Moorfield 
Storey argued the case. He bluntly told the Court that it had erred 
grievously in the Frank case. He pointed out eloquently that a 
citizen is a citizen both of the state in which he resides and of the 
United States. For this reason, he insisted, there is a shared responsi- 
bility of state and federal courts to guard zealously the Constitu- 
tional rights of every citizen of the United States. 

We were moved by Mr. Storey’s magnificent humanitarian appeal, 
but neither he nor anyone else dared entertain any real hope that the 
Court would follow his reasoning. Legal precedents enjoying the 
sacrosanct status which they did at that time would be overruled, 
we were certain, only by a miracle. 

I shall never forget February 19, 1923, the day the decision was 
handed down in the small Supreme Court in the Capitol in Washing- 
ton in the case of Moore v. Dempsey y the Arkansas riot case. In 
more than five years of struggle against unbelievable odds, we had 

Louis Marshall wrote me a warm letter of congratulation, in 
which he said of the position which he had taken unsuccessfully in 
the Frank case that “the stone the builders rejected has become the 
cornerstone of the temple.” He enclosed a check as “a thank offer- 
ing” and volunteered his legal services without cost to the NAACP, 
which he gave to the end of his life. We received many letters and 
telegrams of congratulation on the victory, but none was as welcome 
as a letter written on inexpensive paper in pencil and signed by 
those of the defendants who were literate enough to write, express- 
ing their gratitude. 

About that time, I almost succeeded in becoming a member of the 
Ku Klux Klan. A college classmate of mine sent me a Klan letter 
which a friend of his had retrieved from a white man’s wastebasket. 
The letter read as follows: 

54 A Man Called White 

As a leading citizen of your community, and having confidence in 
your patriotism, I take the liberty of bringing to your attention a matter 
which cannot fail to appeal to every real American. 

The story of the Ku Klux Klan, of the reconstruction days, and its 
valiant services in behalf of white supremacy, insures it a place in the 
heart of every true American, thereby adding to the glory which clusters 
around the names of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, its Grand Wizard, 
and Gen. John B. Gordon, who was at the head of the work in Georgia. 

A branch of the reorganized Klan of today, which has been broadened 
into a standard fraternal order, thereby enlarging the scope of its work, 
yet retaining all of the protective features of the old Klan, should be in 
every community of the Nation. 

Its need today, when the fourteen million people of the colored race 
are organizing, and when the Anarchist and Bolshevik forces are en- 
croaching daily upon the basic principles of Americanism, cannot fail 
to be apparent to the thinking man. 

If you are interested in this matter I would be glad to hear from you, 
at once. 

Very truly yours, 

sgd./ Edward Young Clarke 

In the name of our fathers— for our country, our homes and each other. 

I wrote the Klan on plain stationery saying that as a native 
Georgian, although now living in New York, I was greatly inter- 
ested in the reorganization of the Klan and would like information 
regarding membership. Clarke answered my inquiry, expressing 
pleasure at my interest and enclosed a questionnaire asking for in- 
formation about myself, which I completed and returned. 

Clarke’s letters increased in cordiality as our correspondence con- 
tinued. Apparently he became convinced that I could be useful to 
the Klan. He inquired if I would be willing to devote full time as 
chief organizer of New York state. I replied cagily that I was very 
comfortably situated and could not consider a major change in my 
career unless I was certain it would be worth while. In the mean- 
time both from Clarke and other sources we were able to gather 
documentary and other evidence which clearly showed the sinister 
and illegal conspiracy against human and civil rights which the 
Klan was concocting. I was invited to Atlanta at the expense of the 
Klan, but decided against going. 

Clarke apparently decided in the meantime that it would be best 

/ Almost Join the Klan 55 

to make some independent inquiries about me before hiring me as 
state organizer. Suddenly I ceased receiving signed letters directly 
from the Imperial Palace of the Klan. In their stead, I began to 
be deluged with anonymous letters threatening my life if I ever 
revealed any of the information about the Klan which I had gained 
in my correspondence with Clarke. But these facts had already been 
placed in the hands of the Department of Justice and of the New 
York Police Department. 

The effect of the Klan’s propagation of hate and violence was not 
long in being seen. Negroes had registered in large numbers in 
various Florida cities, particularly in Jacksonville. Just prior to the 
presidential election of 1920, one thousand hooded Klansmen paraded 
through the streets of Jacksonville. Negroes telephoned the chief 
of police and mayor asking that the Klan parade pass through Davis 
Street, on which the inhabitants were Negroes. This invitation the 
Klan thought wisest not to accept. Instead of deterring Negroes 
from voting, the parade stepped up the registration and voting on 
November 2nd. 

But in Ocoee, Florida, the Klan did not stop at parades. When 
Moses Norman, a wealthy Negro who owned a huge and well- 
tended orange grove and thereby was too prosperous for a Negro, 
went to the polls to vote a mob beat him severely and ordered him 
to go home. Instead, he went to the home of July Perry, a Negro 
friend who, as manager of a large orange grove, was the object of 
bitter resentment because the whites felt that his was a white man’s 
job. A hooded mob followed Norman to Perry’s home, set fire to 
it and other houses in the colored district, and shot down all colored 
people who attempted to flee from the burning buildings. Eighteen 
houses, two churches, a school, and a lodge hall were burned to 
the ground. The news accounts declared that five Negroes were 
burned to death, but the actual number was several times greater. 
Members of the mob eagerly searched the ruins of the burned 
buildings for charred bones of the victims to be retained as sou- 
venirs, I learned when I went to Ocoee. The facts of the mass 
lynching along with reports from, and the names of, reputable 
eyewitnesses, white and Negro, were presented to the Department 
of Justice, but no punitive action was ever taken. 

56 A Mem Called White 

Week after week and month after month the fight against the 
Klan was stepped up by the alarming growth of the organization, 
not only throughout the South but in Northern states such as In- 
diana, New York, and Massachusetts. Early one Sunday morning 
I was awakened by an officer of the New York City Police Depart- 
ment Bomb Squad. I had not seen early editions of the New York 
World in which the story of a meeting of Klansmen in the Bronx 
had been published. A speaker from the Imperial Palace of the Klan 
at Atlanta had reminded his audience that they had taken an oath 
to protect the order with their lives. He informed them that a 
“Negro named Walter White” had come into possession of Klan 
secrets which they as Klansmen must keep, at any cost, from being 
made public. The Bomb Squad oflicer was a gigantic Irish Catholic, 
over six feet in height. He informed me that detectives were being 
assigned to protect my family and me and asked for a schedule 
of our movements so that we would be constantly under protection. 

All that morning other volunteer protectors kept our telephone 
and doorbell ringing. They were Negroes, most of them of modest 
circumstances, who assured us that “No Kluxer will ever put his 
hand on you or your family.” 

In Atlanta, too, friends and neighbors volunteered assistance and 
saw to it that Mother’s and Father’s house was carefully guarded. 
WhetKer it was due to that protection or the cowardice of the 
Klan I never knew, but fortunately they were not molested and 
neither was I. 

A triple lynching near Aiken, South Carolina, which I investi- 
gated, gave me an unforgettable inside picture of how a movement 
capitalizing on hate operates at the local level. Three members of 
a Negro family named Lowman, one of them a young woman, had 
been lynched after one of them had been freed by the court. Vig- 
orous and courageous defense by a local white lawyer had not only 
established beyond all doubt that the three Negroes were innocent 
of the murder for which they had been arrested, but some of the 
testimony quite clearly showed that the guilty parties were white 
and prominent in oflSicial and business circles. The surest and quickest 
method of simultaneously shutting off forever embarrassing revela- 

I Almost Join the Klan 57 

tions and of putting fear into the community was lynching the three 
Negroes. It was established that the triple lynching was handled 
from its inception by the local Klan. 

I don’t recall any man so isolated by his community as was the 
lawyer who had defended the Negroes. His family had been distin- 
guished in social and political life in South Carolina for several 
generations. As a lawyer he had defended Negroes, sometimes re- 
ceiving little or no payment for his services, when he was convinced 
that they were being persecuted because of their color. Such a 
conviction had caused him to make a gallant and successful fight in 
defense of the Lowmans. When rumors of the lynching reached 
him, he had communicated promptly with the governor, judge, and 
prosecutor, but wholly without results. He told me freely and 
frankly the names of the ringleaders and, in particular, the name 
of an individual who lived in a near-by cotton mill town who could 
give me additional information. 

I asked him if he would accompany me to this town if I hired 
an automobile. His reaction, revealing fear, was startling. He peered 
out of the window at the descending sun and somewhat anxiously 
answered, “I will go with you if you will promise to get back to 
town before sundown.” 

I asked him why there was need of such caution. “Surely no 
one would dare harm so well-known and respected a person as 
yourself,” I remarked. 

“Those mill hands and Kluxers would harm anybody,” he an- 
swered with deep conviction. 

I promised him that we would get back to town before sundown 
—because I suddenly found myself as anxious to do so as he. If the 
Klan would molest him, it did not take much imagination to figure 
out what they would do to a stranger. 

When we reached the little mill town he drove me to a house 
perched on the side of a hill and introduced me to a man with iron- 
gray hair and eyes which seemed to bore through us. I told him 
frankly that I was seeking information about the lynching. He 
gravely left the room and almost immediately there appeared in 
the doorway a figure dressed in the full regalia of the Ku Klux 
Klan. For just a moment I thought that I had walked into a trap, 

58 A Man Called White 

and then the hood was removed, revealing that its wearer was oui 


“I show you this,” he said, “so that you will realize I know what 
I am talking about.” 

He had been, he told us, the organizer and Kleagle of the local 
Klan. His activity had been for him, at the outset, an honest though 
mistaken expression of his desire to clean up corrupt local govern- 
ment and suppress an excess of local criminal activities. But he had 
not been engaged in Klan activities long before he learned what 
many others who have entered the movement honestly learned— 
that the very people whose misdeeds they had hoped to correct had 
gained control of the organization. He had then resigned and had 
lived in constant fear of his life ever since. In an adjoining room he 
showed me a formidable collection of guns and ammunition which 
he had collected for use, if necessary, in the defense of himself 
and his family. 

Although everything in me hated everything connected with the 
Ku Klux Klan, I could not help feeling again as I looked at that 
arsenal in a home the sense of terror which I had known that night 
in 1906 when my father and I, guns in hand, had knelt in the dark 
at a window of our house in Atlanta, and I felt a bond of sympathy 
between this ex-Kluxer and myself. We both knew what it was 
to be among the hunted. 

What he told me that day confirmed all of our former evidence 
that the Klan had organized and carried out the lynching. 

The three victims had been falsely charged with murder and 
convicted and sentenced to death in a court packed with armed 
Klansmen. Their case had been appealed to the state supreme court, 
which promptly reversed the conviction, severely criticized the 
judge before whom they had been tried, and ordered a new trial. 
At the new trial (again in a Klan-packed courtroom) the evidence 
so clearly showed the innocence of one of the defendants that the 
judge dismissed the case against him. As soon as he was released, 
however, he was rearrested on a minor charge and again lodged in 
jail. That night the mob broke into the jail, took the prisoners to 
the edge of town, told them to run, and shot them down in a fusil- 
lade of bullets. 

I Almost Join the Klan 59 

The story came out bit by bit in what the ex-Kluxcr told us, and 
in conversations I had with others during three days of investiga- 
tion. One of the lynchers told me with sneering contempt and 
obvious relish, “We had to waste fifty bullets on the wench before 
one of them stopped her howling.” Evidence in affidavit form which 
could not be doubted indicated clearly that the sheriff, several of 
his deputies, various jailers and policemen, three relatives of the man 
who was then governor of the state, a member of the state legisla- 
ture, and several men prominent in the business, political, and social 
life of the community, had been members of the mob. 

The revelation of these findings after I returned to New York did 
not add to my popularity in the lynching region. Public sentiment 
in the state itself, stirred up by several courageous newspapers, began 
to make it uncomfortable for the lynchers. When the sheriff found 
things getting a bit too unpleasant, he announced that he was going 
to ask the grand jury to indict me for “bribery and passing for 


Jimcrow in Europe and Harlem 

Although it was a brilliant dream that fell short of translation into 
reality, the Pan-African Congress held in London, Paris, and Geneva 
in 1921 played a profound role in opening my eyes to the world 
implications of the race question and the interrelationship between 
that question and other problems of colonialism, imperialism, mar- 
kets for manufactured goods made in industrialized regions like 
the United States and Europe, sources of raw materials for the 
making of those products, and all the other complex issues facing 
the modern world, intimately involved with the causes of war and 
the very bases of civilization. Dr. W. E. B. DuBois, editor of The 
Crisis and creator of the idea of the Congress, and I, sailed in Sep- 
tember for England, where the first session was to be held. 

We found the British government undergoing a suave case of the 
jitters because of the meeting. Its colonial peoples in India, Africa, 
and the West Indies were becoming increasingly resentful and 
restive because of the meager share they enjoyed of the freedom 
and opportunity which they had been assured World War One was 
fought to gain. Marcus Garvey’s flamboyant “Back to Africa” move- 
ment was at the time in its most gaudy and vocal period. Garvey 
speeches to the effect that he and his followers were going to oust 
white people from Africa, bag and baggage, frightened Downing 
Street even though the government knew there was virtually no 
likelihood that Garvey would ever be able to gather the money, 
ships, guns, and supplies necessary to make good on his threats and 

The objective of the Pan-African Congress was less specific and 


Jimcrow in Europe and Harlem 6i 

dramatic than Garvey’s but, in the light of the colonial systems at 
that time, capable of achieving more peaceable and lasting results. 
It was believed that regular and frequent meetings on a purely con- 
sultative and informative basis would in time acquaint the natives 
of various colonial areas with the evils of the colonial system, and 
eventually result in a workable plan to abolish it and to train natives 
in self-government. Among other objectives of the Congress was 
the improvement of deplorable educational and health conditions, 
and the setting up of a united pressure group to force independence, 
if necessary. Garvey barred from his movement not only all white 
people but all light-skinned colored people, thus emphasizing a 
color line within the colored world. The Pan-African Congress, on 
the other hand, welcomed all those, irrespective of race or nation- 
ality, who saw the evils of imperialism. 

But despite this more moderate program, there were almost as 
many secret agents of the British Colonial Office at our sessions as 
there were delegates, and the same surveillance was encountered 
in Belgium and France. 

Philip Snowden, soon to become one of the top members of 
Britain’s first Labour government, arranged a meeting for Dr. Du 
Bois and me with the executive committee of the Labour Party, 
from which I brought away an impression of disappointment. Dr. 
DuBois tried to obtain some definite statement from Ramsay Mac- 
Donald as to what the Labour Party proposed to do to correct 
glaring evils in the colonies, but we received only vague evasions. 

This same insularity of interest was again impressed upon me by 
H. G. Wells, who invited me to luncheon. We plunged into discus- 
sion of the race problem as he plied me with questions about lynch- 
ing in the United States, which aroused in him great indignation. 
We talked of cruelties and deprivations of opportunity and liberty 
perpetrated in the German, French, Dutch, Belgian, and Italian 
colonies, and Wells was unequivocal in his condemnation of im- 
perialism and colonial rule. Feeling certain by then that Wells’ 
condemnation of injustice was universal, I mentioned the recent 
expos6 of slavery in Sierra Leone and other instances of England’s 
guilt. I was brought sharply to attention when Wells interrupted, 
“Ah, but that is a different situation!” He went on to explain what 

62 A Man Called White 

he conceived to be essential differences between colonial administra- 
tion in British colonies and mandated areas and that in areas ruled 
by other European nations. He was not altogether uncritical of 
British mistakes, I must in fairness report. But it was disappointing 
to find one I had admired so extravagantly for his erudition and 
industry afflicted with the “mote and beam” disease. The major 
ills of colonialism he believed should be corrected, but he envisioned 
no material change in the system itself. 

But nationalism and imperialism, I learned at Paris, were no 
monopoly of white people. For reasons of self-interest a Senegalese 
who had been elevated to one of the highest posts in the French 
government— High Commissioner of Black Troops— was far less 
critical of his own government than Wells had been of his. M. 
Blaise Diagne occupied as large and imposing an office and was as 
carefully protected by as many secretaries and flunkies as was 
Clemenceau. M. Diagne was militantly critical of the British, Ger- 
man, and Italian colonial policies. But he could see no faintest basis 
for criticism of the French policy. Diagne went even further; he 
threatened to withdraw from the Congress and denounce it if there 
were any condemnation of France. Such action might have meant 
adjournment of the Congress, and even our expulsion from France, 
or at least a suggestion that we depart. I was not disturbed and even 
hoped Diagne would carry out his threat. The publicity would have 
made it clear, it seemed to me, that our embryonic fight against a 
dangerous and evil system would be carried on against black as well 
as white apologists, and perhaps have enlisted the support of persons 
all over the earth who had not yet heard of the organization. 

But Diagne did not resign. One of the speakers at the Paris meet- 
ing was an eloquent representative of a French organization for the 
protection of the indigenes frangais. His indictment of his govern- 
ment’s treatment of natives in her colonies was so scathing and 
meticulously documented that not even Diagne could defend it. 
Andr6 Gide’s Voyage au Congo was then appearing serially in a 
popular French magazine and his expose of what was going on in 
French Africa aided us in establishing our case and preventing an 
open break. 

Diagne was a man of very considerable executive ability and a 

Jimcroav in Europe and Harlem 63 

perfect example of the canny genius of the French mind. Freer of 
prejudice than England or the United States, France sought out 
bright young men in her colonies and brought them to Paris to be 
educated and indoctrinated with loyalty to France. No objection 
was ever made to intermarriage, nor was there ever any faintest 
manifestation of social or other discrimination. Diagne had married 
into one of France’s most distinguished and socially secure families. 
His beautiful and charming wife had borne him several very at- 
tractive children. When boorish Americans had attempted to make 
trouble for the Diagne family in one of Paris’ restaurants, the gov- 
ernment had tartly and unequivocally reminded the ill-mannered 
offenders that they were visitors in France and that if they could not 
behave themselves and cease trying to impose their prejudices in a 
country where such stupidities were not welcome, they would be 
invited to leave. Is there any wonder that men like Diagne felt more 
loyal to such a government than do citizens of countries like the 
United States who receive no such protection from their govern- 

Back in New York a host of activities official and personal awaited 
me. I was soon plunged into a new fight which demonstrated how 
the poison of race prejudice, and, even more, of ignorance about 
the Negro’s potentialities, had penetrated the North. Ever since I 
had arrived in New York I had heard distressing stories about 
Harlem Hospital. At that time no Negro was permitted in that 
hospital or any other of the New York City hospital system, except 
as a patient. This was true despite the fact that there were in New 
York numbers of Negro doctors and nurses trained in top-flight 
medical schools such as Harvard, Yale, Pennsylvania, Michigan, 
Chicago, Columbia, and McGill, as well as some excellent men edu- 
cated at less well-equipped and well-known medical schools such as 
Howard University and Meharry Medical College. None of these 
Negroes was permitted to practice in these tax-supported institu- 
tions in New York City. 


Negro patients were treated with such scant efficiency at Harlem 
Hospital that the situation had produced a folk saying: “When any 
member of your family goes to Harlem Hospital, telephone the 

64 A Man Called White 

undertaker.” Dr. Louis T. Wright led the fight to investigate and 
remedy these conditions. Almost entirely due to his efforts, the 
North Harlem Medical Association and the NAACP raised enough 
money to employ William N. Colson, a brilliant graduate of the 
Columbia University School of Law, to gather the facts. His report 
confirmed the worst rumors of callous and inadequate treatment and 
racial discrimination in Harlem Hospital. We presented our findings 
to Mayor John F. Hylan, who ordered Commissioner of Accounts 
Hirshfield to investigate the complaints and if necessary to hold 
public hearings. 

We urged upon the City of New York that it not only clear up 
Harlem Hospital but that it abandon the unwritten law against 
admission of qualified colored doctors, specialists, and nurses to New 
York City hospitals. This demand was considered both revolutionary 
and impossible. A compromise was offered, which some Negroes 
were eager to accept, to build a two-million dollar hospital to be 
staffed in its entirety by Negro doctors. 

This counterproposal created a situation and forced a decision 
which has profoundly affected Negro thinking on this issue. Should 
we accept a jimcrow institution, however deluxe, or should we make 
the far harder decision of insisting on complete integration? 

Louis Wright held out for the maximum program. He contended 
that the chief advantage to Negro doctors of opportunity to serve 
in hospitals was that of learning and competing with the best men in 
the field, and that acceptance of segregated training would fix 
forever upon the Negro a differential of training and experience. 
This, in turn, would do harm to the Negro doctors’ patients and 
perpetuate a higher morbidity and mortality rate among Negroes. 
Second-class status must never be accepted, however long and 
difficult the attainment of first-class opportunity might be. 

The conflict over approach and method of attack on the Negro’s 
health problems was brought more sharply into focus by the Harlem 
Hospital fight than ever before. And it still rages. But the stand 
taken for admission of Negroes on the basis of merit and ability 
has resulted in Negroes serving on the staffs not only of Harlem 
Hospital, but also of Bellevue, Kings County, Seaview, and other 
New York municipal and private hospitals. 

A Wife, a Book, and a Hospital 

In 1922 two things happened to me which have been important 
factors in everything which has followed. The first and most im- 
portant was my marriage on February 15th to Leah Gladys Powell, 
who for two years previous to that had been (from my point of 
view at least) much the most interesting member of the NAACP 
staff. The second was Jim Johnson’s casual invitation to go along 
with him to an appointment with H. L. Mencken, then editor of The 
Smart Set 

Shortly after meeting Mencken I received one of his charac- 
teristically terse and salty notes asking what I thought of Birthright, 
a novel about the Negro by T. S. Stribling of Tennessee. Flattered, 
I wrote a lengthy and painfully erudite criticism of the book point- 
ing out that the novel had courage in depicting Negroes as human 
beings instead of as menials or buffoons, but that it obviously was 
written from the outside looking in. I said that Stribling’s depiction 
of Negro servants was not too bad, but that he fell down badly in 
his portrayal of what educated Negroes feel and think. Mencken 
replied, “Why don’t you do the right kind of novel? You could 
do it, and it would create a sensation.” 

Such an idea was at first preposterous. I had never even thought 
of attempting to write fiction. Mencken, Jim, and I talked over the 
notion as they both tried to convince me that the variety of ex- 
periences which my appearance made possible by permitting me to 
talk with white people as a white man and with my own people 
as a Negro gave me a unique vantage point. Mary White Ovington 
generously joined the conspiracy by offering Gladys and me the 


66 A Mm Called White 

use of her cottage ‘"Riverbank” at Great Barrington, Massachusetts. 
We took the train with typewriter, paper, pencils, and little other 
equipment— and certainly no clearly thought out plot for a novel. 
I had a rather misty notion of using as my central character a Negro 
doctor, trained in a first-class Northern medical school and returned 
to his native Georgia small town, but what would happen to him 
was not thought out at all. 

I started to write and found that many of the characters seemed 
to rise up begging to be described, and creating their own story. 
I wrote feverishly and incessantly for twelve days and parts of 
twelve nights, stopping only when complete fatigue made it physi- 
cally and mentally impossible to write another word. On the twelfth 
day the novel was finished and I dropped on a near-by couch and 
slept for hours. 

Back in New York I ran into John Farrar, now a publisher but at 
that time editor of The Bookmm^ scholarly monthly of the arts 
published by George H. Doran and Company. In answer to his 
friendly query as to how I had spent the summer I hesitantly con- 
fessed I had written a novel. John asked to see it, but I demurred 
until I had rewritten it and corrected at least the more glaring 
deficiencies in writing with which I knew the manuscript was 

John insisted that I let him see the novel before it was rewritten: 
he could determine better if I had any ability as a fiction writer 
from the first draft, he assured me, than from a later version which 
might have some of its strength removed by attempts at “elegant 
writing.” Somewhat dubiously, because I had reread parts of the 
manuscript, I sent the novel to John’s office the next morning. 

Not long afterward I received from Mr. Doran the most exciting 
—the most deliriously exciting— letter I had ever received in my life. 
We like your novel, he wrote, and will publish it after a few changes 
have been made which we wish to discuss with you. 

To say that I walked on air between the receipt of the letter and 
the day of my appointment with Mr. Doran is a gross understate- 
ment. The famous publisher greeted me warmly and introduced me 
to Eugene Saxton, then one of his associate editors. John Farrar was 
naturally there too. Mr. Doran warmly congratulated me but I 

A Wife, a Bookj and a Hospital 67 

noticed that John and Eugene Saxton appeared to be somewhat 
uncomfortable. I learned the reason a few minutes later. 

“Your novel has great drama and power/’ Mr. Doran told me. 
“But there are some changes we want you to make. Your Negro 
characters— uh, uh— are not what readers expect. I’m sure you will 
be willing to make the necessary changes/’ he added somewhat 
lamely, as he noticed my expression. 

We talked for an hour or more, and it became increasingly clear 
that someone had convinced Mr. Doran that even though there 
were Negro college graduates who talked correct English instead 
of dialect, the number of such Negroes was too small to justify their 
being written of as educated and normal human beings. I learned 
some time later that Mr. Doran had submitted my novel to Irvin 
S. Cobb, the Kentucky humorist, who had been so shocked by its 
outspokenness that he had advised against its publication, fearing 
that it would cause race riots in the South. 

Disheartened and disillusioned, I sent the manuscript to Mencken, 
who replied almost by return mail, “I have read The Fire in the 
Flint. There is not one episode in it which has not been duplicated 
in real life over and over again. I suggest that you send it to Alfred 

Knopf published the novel in 1924, and reaction to it was grati- 
fyingly prompt and vigorous. It told of a Negro doctor who, after 
graduation from a Northern medical school, returned to his home 
in Georgia filled with idealistic zeal and determined to devote him- 
self to raising the deplorable health conditions among his people. 
He was equally determined to avoid involvement in the race ques- 
tion. He soon learned, however, that for a Negro a life devoted to 
pure science is impossible, and becomes involved more and more in 
the problems which his people face. Because his medical education is 
superior to that of any white doctor in the town, he is called upon 
to operate on and save the life of the daughter of a prominent white 
citizen. In the meantime he has been active in organizing a coopera- 
tive movement among Negroes which brings upon him the organized 
hostility of local merchants and landlords and of the Ku Klux Klan. 
The story ends dramatically— perhaps melodramatically would be 
more accurate— when the doctor is lynched. But while it ends in 

68 A Man Called White 

personal tragedy and death for the hero, one senses that the spirit 
of revolt against bigotry which he symbolizes will be accelerated 
rather than diminished by his death. 

The first review of the book was written by Laurence Stallings, 
at that time literary editor of the New York Worldj who, in col- 
laboration with Maxwell Anderson, had achieved phenomenal suc- 
cess as a playwright with the famous play What Price Glory, 
Stallings said that the Central City of The Fire in the Flint was the 
most accurate portrayal of a small town in his native Georgia that 
he had ever read, and that the characters and plot were the truest 
of any novel written about the South to date. A columnist, Coleman 
Hill, on the Macon Daily Telegraph in Stallings’ home town, re- 
printed his review and expressed agreement with it. The newspaper 
was swamped with denunciatory letters, telephone calls, and other 
expressions of disapproval. To set itself clear with its readers and 
subscribers, the Daily Telegraph published several editorials de- 
nouncing Stallings and Hill and, even more vigorously, myself. 
Heywood Broun took up the cudgels for the three of us in his 
famous column in the New York World, As a result the novel was 
catapulted into the gratifying position of being a modest best-seller, 
far beyond its literary merits. The novel went through several edi- 
tions and was published in England and, in translation, in France, 
Denmark, Russia, Japan, and Germany. It received the honor of 
being one of the books burned in Germany after Hitler came into 

Two interesting experiences attended publication of The Fire in 
the Flint in Russia and Japan. During the height of world-wide 
agitation over the Scottsboro Case, a newspaper correspondent 
friend of mine was present at a huge demonstration in a Moscow 
park at which I was bitterly denounced by the Communists, who 
had persuaded the Scottsboro defendants to dismiss the NAACP 
from the case and turn its direction over to the Communists. At the 
Moscow meeting I was savagely attacked as “a tool of the capitalists” 
and “an ally of the lyncher forces.” Walking away from the meet- 
ing, the newspaper correspondent passed the state publishing com- 
pany, where he saw a display of translations of The Fire in the Flint 
—which, at the time, was enjoying a considerable sale as a picture 

A Wife, a Book, and a Hospital 69 

of what a “capitalist” nation like the United States does to its 

Unwittingly and unwillingly, I was also utilized through the 
medium of The Fire in the Flint in Japan. The novel was first pub- 
lished in translation there under its original title and enjoyed a 
modest sale. Later, when American indignation over Japan’s inva- 
sion of China mounted, a new Japanese edition, with the title 
changed to Lynching, was brought out. The new edition sold in 
fantastic numbers, due to a publicity campaign by the Japanese 
government pointing out that the novel pictured the kind of bar- 
barities which were tolerated and even encouraged in the democracy 
which had the temerity to criticize Japan for her acts in China. I am 
glad to say that I never received royalties from either the Japanese 
or Russian translations, for I wouldn’t have liked that money. 

In 1923, the United States Veterans Administration under Briga- 
dier General Frank T. Hines announced that it would establish a 
segregated hospital for Negro veterans at Tuskegee Institute. The 
NAACP board of directors had passed a resolution ^ opposing 
the establishment of a segregated hospital for Negro veterans any- 
where in the South. The protest was ignored. Tuskegee Institute 
welcomed the location of the hospital and gave three hundred acres 
to the government as a site. Dr. Robert R. Moton, president of 
Tuskegee, was orally assured that he would be consulted about per- 
sonnel for the hospital, but that promise was blandly ignored. A 
bitterly anti-Negro white Alabamian, Colonel Robert H. Stanley, 
was placed by General Hines in charge of the hospital. Colonel 
Stanley, backed by the local Ku Klux Klan and businessmen, pro- 
ceeded immediately to staff the hospital from top to bottom, except 
in one category of employment, with Southern whites, who were 
uniformly unsympathetic to Negroes. The single exception made 
in employment was caused by an Alabama law prohibiting white 
persons from nursing colored patients. Colonel Stanley adroitly 
evaded this law by appointment of white nurses at annual salaries 
ranging from Si, 680 to $2,500— considered high wages for nurses in 
Alabama at that time. To each white nurse was assigned a colored 
nurse maid who did all the work at a salary of $60.00 a month. 

70 A Man Called White 

Colonel Stanley’s high-handed action created vigorous resentment 
among Negroes, which was promptly met by a Ku Klux Klan 
parade through the grounds of Tuskegee Institute culminating in a 
banquet at United States government expense in the veterans hos- 
pital and in threats to kill Dr. Moton. 

My brother George happened to be in Alabama at the time in 
connection with his duties with the American Missionary Associa- 
tion. He rushed, at my request, to Tuskegee and, passing as white, 
managed to gain the confidence of members of the Ku Klux Klan. 
They revealed their plan to kill Dr. Moton, if necessary, to burn 
or blow up buildings on the Tuskegee Institute campus, and to 
use whatever violent or other means might be necessary to see 
Stanley’s program carried through. George also obtained evidence 
conclusively establishing that some of the agents of the Department 
of Justice and the Veterans Administration who had been sent to 
Alabama were either sympathetic to the Klan or had been intimi- 

Armed with this information, I made several trips to Washington 
for conferences with John W. Crim, Acting Attorney General, and 
with top officials of the Veterans Bureau. In the meantime an 
extraordinary change had been wrought in the attitude of Dr. 
Moton by the developments. He was a gentle man who hated con- 
flict and violence. Although he had incurred sharp criticism and 
even bitter resentment for doing so, he had urged upon Negro 
soldiers in France that they win the war first and then rely on grati- 
tude from their government for the abolition of injustices and in- 
dignities. But the brazen attitude of the Ku Klux Klan and the 
Veterans Administration and the threats to destroy Tuskegee Insti- 
tute marked a turning point in Dr. Moton’s philosophy. I sat with 
him in his home at Tuskegee during the height of the trouble. He 
pointed to a rifle and a shotgun, well oiled and grimly businesslike, 
that stood in the comer of the room. Although his words in cold 
print may sound overheroic, they did not sound so to me as he said 
quietly, “I’ve got only one time to die. If I must die now to save 
Tuskegee Institute, I’m ready. I’ve been running long enough.’’ 

The break in this situation came when General Hines and other 
officials of the Veterans Administration were forced, by the gravity 

A Wife, a Book, and a Hospital 71 

of conditions there, to go to Tuskegee. A meeting was arranged 
between local whites and General Hines, at which the government 
official was profanely informed that, irrespective of what Washing- 
ton or the federal government wished or said, the veterans hospital 
at Tuskegee would be run in the manner determined and desired 
by the local whites. This was too much for an Army general to 
take. General Hines peremptorily ordered the staffing of the hospital 
with a mixed group of Negro and white doctors. 

A Black Tide Flows Northward 

During World War One and the years immediately following there 
had occurred the greatest migration of Negroes from the South to the 
North in the history of the United States. The movement of Negroes 
northward had been accompanied by a considerable migration of 
Southern whites, both groups having been attracted to Northern 
industrial centers by high wartime wages. And, inevitably, along 
with these two parallel migrations there went a third— Southern 
racist doctrines— which greatly accentuated the race problem as a 
national, instead of merely a Southern, tragedy. 

Drawn to the North by higher wages, as the whites had been, 
Negroes had also fled from lynching, disfranchisement, inferior 
schools, confinement to menial and lower-paid employment, and 
all the other evils from which they had suffered in the South. When 
the war had ended and wages dropped, Southern whites had re- 
turned home in large numbers, but generally speaking the Negro 
had remained in the North. 

Expansion of the Negro population in Northern cities made ex- 
pansion of the areas in which Negroes lived inevitable, and created 
a complex problem the solution of which has not yet been found. 
Some cities, particularly along the border line between the North 
and South, in efforts to pen Negroes into restricted areas— invariably 
the least desirable and healthy— had enacted city ordinances to 
achieve this purpose which the United States Supreme Court in the 
case of Buchanan v. Worley ^ held to be invalid. 

Those who were determined to make the Negro live in over- 

1 245 U.S. 60. 

A Black Tide Flows Northward 73 

crowded, segregated areas were not discouraged but promptly 
turned to other devices, such as restrictive covenants prohibiting 
sale or rental to, or occupancy by, Negroes, and pressure of public 
opinion, including mob violence. In a succession of episodes during 
the twenties from Los Angeles, California, to Westchester County, 
New York, there were threats, burning of Ku Klux Klan fiery 
crosses, and mob violence when Negroes sought to escape the ghetto 
and move into “white” neighborhoods. 

Detroit was the scene of a long succession of such attacks, rivaling 
Chicago in this respect. Detroit had 8,000 Negro inhabitants in 1915; 
more than 85,000 in 1925. The tenfold-expanded Negro population 
was expected to live in the small area bordering on St. Antoine 
Street where one-tenth of their number had been crowded a decade 
before, and very few new houses were constructed. Whenever 
Negroes sought to find breathing space and more decent accommo- 
dations outside the ghetto they were met by threats and mobism. 
Virtually nothing was done by the police authorities to prevent the 
attacks or to punish the attackers. 

It was inevitable that some serious trouble would ensue. This 
came in 1925 when a Negro physician. Dr. Osian H. Sweet, pur- 
chased a home at the corner of Garland and Charlevoix Streets in 
a middle-class white neighborhood. As soon as it became known 
that a Negro physician had bought the house. Dr. Sweet was 
threatened by violence if he attempted to occupy it. He refused 
to be intimidated. He and his wife and their young child, his brother 
Henry, a law student, and another brother Otis, a dentist, went 
ahead with their preparations to occupy their new home. On the 
8th of September, 1925, they moved in. They were accompanied by 
a chauffeur and handyman employed by Dr. Sweet, and two friends 
of the Sweets, one of them a federal narcotics officer. As soon as 
darkness fell, crowds began to gather in the streets outside. Later 
in the evening the mob became so thick that two young women 
friends of Mrs. Sweet had difficulty getting through to visit the 
new homeowners. A few stones were thrown at the house during 
the night, but no other attack was made. Seeing the group gathered 
outside the darkened house. Dr. Sweet telephoned the police de- 
partment asking for protection but none was provided. 

74 A Man Called White 

The next night the crowd was larger and more belligerent. Inside 
the house Mrs. Sweet had prepared a dinner of roast pork, baked 
sweet potatoes, mustard greens, ice cream and cake, which they 
were about to eat when a concerted attack on the house was made. 
Two Negroes on their way home from work, passing on the out- 
skirts of the mob, were set upon and beaten unmercifully. Police- 
men stood idly by and raised no hand to check the mob, which was 
being whipped into a frenzy by several self-appointed leaders. 

“Niggers! Niggers! Get them— they’re niggers! Get the damn 
niggers!” the crowd yelled. 

Lights were switched off inside the house. Instead of stones and 
bricks banging against the house, bullets pierced it. The mob began 
moving in. Suddenly it stopped. The silent house was no longer 
silent. The fire had been returned. A scream of pain rose over the 
roar of the mob as one of its members fell. For the first time the 
police sprang into action. They entered the house and arrested its 
occupants. One by one they were led through the mob to police 
cars to be driven away to the county jail. The defendants were 
cursed and screamed at, but a few of the mob, their hearts ap- 
parently touched by the sight of slender, attractive Mrs. Sweet, her 
face drawn by sleeplessness and terror, cheered when she appeared. 
All eleven occupants of the house were swiftly arraigned and 
charged with murder. 

At the request of the defendants and our local branch, I went to 
Detroit and to the county jail directly from the train. The defend- 
ants were brought from their cells to a detention pen. When I was 
admitted and identified myself as assistant secretary of the NAACP, 
one of the defendants half sobbed and exclaimed, “Thank God! We 
can now rest easy and get some sleep!” 

The importance of the case to the Negro cause was obvious. If 
the Sweets were not given adequate legal defense, if the ancient 
Anglo-Saxon principle that “a man’s home is his castle” were not 
made applicable to Negroes as weD as to others, we knew that other 
and even more determined attacks would be made upon the homes 
of Negroes throughout the country. We were equally convinced 
that legal aflirmation that a Negro had the right to defend his home 

A Black Tide Flows Northward 75 

against mob assault would serve to deter other mobs in Detroit and 

It soon became apparent that the task would be terrifically diffi- 
cult. We sought to employ the ablest lawyers in Detroit for the 
defense. We wanted attorneys who were not only capable but whose 
standing in the community would demonstrate to decent people in 
Detroit and elsewhere that the highly biased stories which had ap- 
peared in the newspapers were not correct. In brief, we did not want 
attorneys who were professionally notorious for their ability to free 
persons accused of crime no matter how guilty. We wanted instead 
men whose reputations were established for taking only cases where 
they were certain that the case of the defendant was just. 

With the aid of Judge Ira W. Jayne, a member of the national 
board of directors of the NAACP, and the late Judge Alfred J. 
Murphy, I prepared a list of such lawyers and set about consulting 
them. One after another made some excuse for not taking the case 
or else frankly told me that public feeling against Dr. Sweet and his 
fellow defendants was so bitter that they could not afford to accept 
the case because it would cause them to lose valuable clients. Several 
other lawyers, somewhat less frank, demanded fees so huge that it 
was utterly impossible for us to pay them. 

I returned to New York to make a very depressing report. It was 
decided then to telegraph Clarence Darrow in Chicago to ask him 
if he would head the defense counsel. Mr. Darrow’s secretary wired 
that he was en route to New York and could be reached through 
Arthur Garfield Hays. Arthur Spingarn, Charles Studin, James 
Weldon Johnson, and I went to Hays’ house to talk with Mr. Dar- 
row. Arthur Spingarn told the tragic story. Mr. Darrow listened 
with deep sympathy and when Arthur had finished, he said softly, 
“I understand. I know the suffering your people have endured.” 

Arthur’s naturally dark skin had been deeply tanned during his 
service in the Army and week ends at his country place in Dutchess 
County. He informed Mr. Darrow, somewhat to the latter’s embar- 
rassment, that, although he was deeply concerned with the Negro 
question, he himself was not a Negro. Mr. Darrow turned to Charlie 
Studin, also swarthy-skinned, and said, “Then you understand.” 
Charles laughed and told him that he also was white. 

76 A Man Coiled White 

In desperation Mr. Darrow then turned to me. “Well, with your 
blue eyes and blond hair I could never make the mistake of thinking 
you colored.” 

I smiled and told him I was colored. 

Mr. Darrow agreed to consider entering the case as chief counsel 
provided it was satisfactory to the defendants and several Negro 
lawyers who had been engaged by some of them. Although Mr. 
Darrow was at that time at the very peak of his considerable fame 
as a lawyer and a champion of human liberty, it was characteristi- 
cally modest of him to believe that there might possibly be some 
objection to his appearing as chief counsel for the defense. I already 
knew the answer, but I went back to Detroit to find unqualified 
delight on the part of the defendants and approval on the part of all 
the lawyers already retained, with one exception. That exception 
dealt with the relative size of the fee to be paid to Mr. Darrow. 
Suppressing a smile, I asked the attorney who raised the question if 
he would be willing to accept the same fee we were paying Mr. 
Darrow, to which there was an instant response in the affirmative. 

“Very well. Mr. Darrow is serving without fee in the case,” I 
told him. He did not seem too happy. 

In Mr. Darrow’s ofiice in Chicago the next morning, he asked 
many questions. 

“Did the defendants shoot into that mob?” he asked. 

“I am not sure, particularly as to whether or not one of the de- 
fendants fired the shot which killed Leon Breiner, a white man . . .” 
I mumbled, afraid he might refuse the case if I told him the defend- 
ants had also fired. 

Mr. Darrow shook his head at me in annoyance. “Don’t try to 
hedge. I know you were not there. But do you believe the de- 
fendants fired?” he asked me almost angrily. 

Meeting the earnest gaze of those intense eyes, I found it impos- 
sible to evade their demand. 

“I believe they did fire,” I said. “And ...” I was about to add 
that I thought they were justified in doing so, but he interrupted 

“Then I’ll take the case. If they had not had the courage to shoot 

A Black Tide Flows Northward 77 

back in defense of their own lives, I wouldn’t think they were 
worth defending.” 

Arthur Garfield Hays also generously offered to serve as associate 
counsel without compensation. In addition we retained three Detroit 
colored lawyers, Messrs. Julian W. Perry, Cecil O. Rowlette, and 
Charles Mahoney, and a Detroit white lawyer, Walter M. Nelson. 

Day after day dragged by in the effort to obtain a jury. Some- 
times gently, sometimes savagely, Mr. Darrow and his associates 
pounded away at the prejudices of the prospective jurors until panel 
after panel of talesmen was exhausted. 

Never had a trial been conducted with more scrupulous fairness 
than it was by Judge Frank Murphy, later destined to become an 
associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. Little by little 
the treatment we received in the newspapers began to be trans- 
formed into greater impartiality and accuracy as the reporters lis- 
tened to the development of the case, both as a legal issue and as one 
of deep human tragedy. I remember particularly a reporter who was 
assigned by Judge Murphy to take charge of the press*table. He was 
a slender, blond Southerner with remarkably large ears. When I 
was introduced to him by Judge Murphy and heard his marked South- 
ern accent, I experienced the first and only doubt of Judge Murphy’s 
assurance of a fair trial. I was soon to learn that I had been guilty 
of prejudice myself, as Felix Holt soon revealed himself to be the 
most scrupulously fair reporter on the case. It was not long before 
he and I together were berating some of the Northern-born reporters 
for letting prejudice creep into their stories. 

A jury obtained, we were three weeks trying the case. Never 
has there been such unanimity among the prosecution witnesses, par- 
ticularly policemen, that there had been no mob nor even a crowd 
anywhere near the Sweet home, despite the inadvertent admission 
by several of the prosecution witnesses that they had had to detour 
two blocks from the Sweet home because of the density of the mob. 

I remember particularly one witness, whose nervousness very 
obviously manifested a not too good mind, trying to remember the 
story he had been coached to tell. He got along all right in his 
direct examination, but no sooner had Clarence Darrow taken him 
over for cross-examination with a voice and manner as gentle as any 

78 A Mm Called White 

cooing dove than discrepancies appeared in his testimony. He was 
not stupid enough to be unaware of these contradictions and his 
nervousness became more and more intense as he twisted his hands, 
mopped his brow, and stammered out his words. Suddenly Mr. 
Darrow’s manner changed. He roared at the witness, “Just what did 
you see that night at Garland and Charlevoix?” The thoroughly 
frightened witness stammered, “I saw a big crowd— I mean a crowd 
—I mean I saw a few people.” Mr. Darrow did not look at the wit- 
ness but gazed out of the window instead. In a voice returned to his 
soft gentleness he asked, “You kinda forgot you were told to say 
that you saw only a few people, didn’t you?” The witness answered, 
“Yes, sir,” as the spectators in the courtroom roared with laughter. 

At last all the testimony was in. Every available space in the court- 
room was jammed with those eager to hear the great lawyer in his 
summation to the jury. Outside, the corridors were almost as tightly 
packed by those who stood for hours in the vain hope that someone 
in the courtroom would leave. The jury leaned forward hour after 
hour drinking in Darrow’s words. It was a magnificent human docu- 
ment which transcended all of the narrow legalism of the law. 

There was one man who nodded affirmation as vigorously as a 
Baptist deacon to his pastor’s word. He glared at the prosecutor, 
energetic Robert M. Toms, now a judge in Detroit. I took comfort 
in watching this juror. We will at least be assured, I reflected, of a 
mistrial. The jury retired late on the afternoon of Thanksgiving 
Eve. We remained in the courtroom until midnight, when Judge 
Murphy ordered the jury locked up for the night. We returned and 
sat in the empty courtroom all the next day, our Thanksgiving 
dinner consisting of two sandwiches and a bottle of skimmed milk 
so thin that it was blue instead of white. After forty-six hours the 
jury announced that it was unable to agree, and a mistrial was 
declared. One of the court attendants told me that the juror on 
whom I had counted for at least a mistrial because of his apparent 
agreement with all that Darrow had said in the courtroom angrily 
shouted, “I don’t give a God damn what the facts are. A nigger 
has killed a white man and I’ll be burned in hell before I will ever 
vote to acquit a nigger who has killed a white man!” Thus it was the 
incurable prejudice of this one man on whose support I had counted 

A Black Tide Flows Northward 79 

which cost us $21,897.67, the cost of the trial which had gone for 
nought because of the jury’s disagreement. 

In the second trial, some months later, we were able to try the 
defendants separately. The prosecution elected to try first Hemry 
Sweet, then a student at Wilberforce University and planning to be 
a lawyer. Thomas Chawke, one of the most brilliant lawyers in the 
state of Michigan, replaced Mr. Hays as Mr. Harrow’s chief as- 
sistant. By then the passage of time and the effect of the truth as 
revealed by Mr. Harrow’s defense in the first trial had somewhat 
changed public opinion, though there was still vigorous demand on 
the part of many Hetroiters for a conviction. This time the jury 
remained out only three hours and twenty-seven minutes before 
bringing in a verdict of “not guilty.” Because the State felt that it 
had its strongest case against Henry, his acquittal led to the dis- 
missal of the other cases. But it took $37,849 and seven and a half 
weeks of actual court trial to achieve the victory. 

This is but one illustration of what it costs Negroes in dollars 
and cents, to say nothing of time, physical suffering, and mental and 
emotional torture, to obtain even elementary justice in many Ameri- 
can courts of law. But the nation-wide publicity given the case and 
the acquittal broke the wave of attacks on the homes of Negroes, 
and there have fortunately been only a few isolated instances of this 
type of mob violence in the years since the Sweet case. 

But the heaviest price was paid by the Sweet family. Mrs. Gladys 
Sweet and her brother-in-law Henry contracted heavy colds in the 
drafty Wayne County Jail. When we were able to effect her release 
in order to care for her young daughter, she worked tirelessly on 
the case to help her husband and his fellow defendants. The heavy 
cold hung on, and this, coupled with the physical and mental strain, 
so depleted her strength that she contracted tuberculosis and died. 
Henry was kept in jail much longer, as he was one of the chief 
defendants. After his acquittal he completed his college and law 
education and started the practice of law. However, the strain of 
the trial had taken its toll of him too, and shortly after receiving 
his law degree he succumbed to tuberculosis. 

Gilding the Lily-White Vote 

Encouraged by the reception which had been given to The Fire in 
the Flinty I wrote a second novel, Flighty the background and 
writing of which was interesting at least to me. It was published in 
1926. It attempted to tell the story of an attractive New Orleans 
Creole girl who after a variety of personal and racial experiences 
decided to cross the color line and live as white, but who eventually 
decided that the benefits thus secured were not worth the price she 
had to pay. Several critics were generous enough to say that it was 
a better written novel than The Fire in the Flint, But because the 
story it told was less melodramatic and because it was not as bitterly 
attacked as my first novel, its sales were small and it was soon for- 

The time I took to write Flight was a brief respite from the crises 
to which, it seemed, every mail called our attention. One of these 
arose when the Mississippi again overflowed its banks in 1927, in 
what was perhaps the most devastating flood of its history. I was 
rushed to the scene when reports and rumors reached us that Negro 
refugees were being treated in some parts of the flooded areas with 
less consideration than that shown to farm animals. I found the 
reports incapable of reflecting the horrible truth. In place after place 
I found Negro refugees penned in concentration camps from which 
they were not permitted by National Guardsmen to emerge without 
the consent of their landlords. I found also that Negroes in many 
instances were being forced to pay for relief which had been sup- 
plied gratis by the Red Cross. When they were unable to pay, many 
of them having lost everything they owned, the “debt” was assumed 


Gilding the Lily-White Vote 8i 

by the landlord of a near-by plantation, and the Negro taken under 
guard to the plantation to work out his debt. 

Publication of my findings created my first of many bitter clashes 
with Herbert Hoover, who was in charge of Mississippi flood relief. 
Mr. Hoover unequivocally and indignantly denied the charges I had 
made. But the evidence that Mississippi planters were using a terrible 
disaster to force Negroes into peonage was so irrefutable that 
Hoover was forced by public indignation to appoint a committee 
of Negroes, headed by Dr. Robert R. Moton of Tuskegee, to in- 
vestigate the charges. To Hoover’s great disappointment the abso- 
lution he manifestly expected did not materialize. The report of the 
Moton Committee, although more temperate in tone than mine and 
that of another NAACP investigation made later, confirmed the 
basic charges we had made. As far as was possible after the passage 
of so much time, some of the major abuses were corrected. 

Several years later we had to make investigation of another flood 
and the treatment accorded Negroes by Army engineers construct- 
ing flood-prevention levees. This investigation, made by Roy Wil- 
kins, assistant secretary of the NAACP, and George S. Schuyler, a 
well-known Negro writer, was as hazardous as it was successful. The 
danger and physical discomfort they braved was infinitely greater 
than any I had ever encountered. Unmistakably Negroes, they could 
not benefit from the immunity afforded me in investigations by my 
white skin. Dressed as Negro laborers, they voluntarily risked the 
suspicions and brutalities the Negro meets in his daily life in states 
like Mississippi. 

They succeeded in visiting twenty levee camps before trouble 
descended upon them. They found that Negroes, being paid an 
average of ten cents an hour, were required to purchase all their 
supplies from commissaries which charged exorbitant prices, and 
that any Negro who dared protest was beaten unmercifully. Some 
had been beaten to death and their bodies buried in the levees. 

It was not long before their guarded and discreet questions made 
them the objects of suspicion. One evening George lay reading on 
the bed in his dingy rooming house in Vicksburg, Mississippi, when 
two policemen shoved the door open and stuck revolvers into his 
side. He was ordered to gather up his belongings and was taken. 

82 A Man Called White 

handcuffed, to the police station. Roy Wilkins was fortunately 
staying in another rooming house and escaped arrest. At the police 
station they took from George thirty dollars in cash (fortunately 
not finding some money he had concealed in his shoe), his fountain 
pen, and his notebooks containing memoranda about the work 
camps they had visited. He was questioned by various officers and, 
feeling it would be futile to conceal his mission, since the authori- 
ties had the notebooks, he said that he was investigating camps on 
the Louisiana side of the river for the NAACP and the War De- 
partment. He told the questioners that increased wages and im- 
proved working conditions would benefit Vicksburg, since the 
Negro workers, freed of the control of the contractors, would spend 
their money where they chose. The argument evidently received 
favorable consideration from officials in the tax-burdened Southern 
city, for George was released the next morning, although he was 
wakened several times during the night for further questioning by 
different police officers to whom the well-informed, unperturbed 
Negro was a novelty. 

His notebooks were returned to him when he was released in the 
morning, but not the cash or his fountain pen. The detective who 
took him to the street told him to get out of the state and “don’t 
wait for the train.” George thought it wise to take his advice and 
hired a man— with the money he had concealed in his shoe— to take 
him to Memphis to catch the train. However, three days later he 
was back in Mississippi with Roy Wilkins in the northwest section 
of the state, continuing their investigation. 

We tried for a long time to secure the return of George’s thirty 
dollars and fountain pen, but entirely without success. I had lengthy 
correspondence with Mayor J. C. Hamilton of Vicksburg, who 
denied that the money had been taken. Mayor Hamilton declared 
that there had been a holdup near Vicksburg and that the woman 
who operated the boarding house where George was arrested had 
“communicated with the Captain of the City Police and informed 
him that there was a suspicious Negro stopping at her place, whom 
she suspected was implicated in the holdup,” and that after due in- 
vestigation the county authorities were “satisfied” that Schuyler 

Gilding the Lily-White Vote 83 

had no connection with the robbery as suspected by “the darky 
who reported to the department.” 

On the basis of the facts uncovered by George and Roy— differ- 
entials in wages paid on a basis of race, exploitation at the commis- 
saries, brutalities of all descriptions— we asked Senator Robert F. 
Wagner of New York to introduce in the United States Senate a 
resolution for an official investigation. By a fortunate legislative 
development, in which Huey Long unwittingly aided us, we man- 
aged to avert a filibuster and obtain passage of the resolution. 

One afternoon Huey Long had virtually emptied the Senate floor 
by means of one of his filibusters. Senator Wagner was one of only 
a handful of senators who listened to the Louisiana demagogue. 
When Long unexpectedly ended his speech and left the floor of 
the Senate, Senator Wagner looked around him to discover that 
all the enemies of his resolution and potential filibusterers were ab- 
sent. He sprang to his feet to ask unanimous consent for passage 
of the resolution. His motion was carried just as the infuriated 
Southern senators, having been warned of what was transpiring, 
came charging into the Senate chamber, too late. The evidence un- 
covered by the Senate investigation led to sweeping reformation of 
employment and living conditions among Negroes along the Missis- 

In 1927, in the Nixon v. Herndon case, we won in the United 
States Supreme Court the first of a series of victories in combating 
disfranchisement by means of the “white Democratic” primary 
which were destined to revolutionize the political status of the 
Negro in the South. Although I violate chronology I ask to be for- 
given because this long struggle for the ballot for Southern Negroes, 
culminating in the 1944 Smith v. Alhvright decision, can best be 
understood if told as a connected series of events. It is an important 
story, for the issues involved have profoundly affected not only the 
status and political philosophy of the Negro but also white Ameri- 
cans, and in the years to come the effect will be even greater. Either 
the Negro must attain full citizenship status with all the rights and 
obligations thereby involved, even in the most remote sections of 
Mississippi, or the democratic process for all Americans will be made 

84 A Man Called White 

White America was a long time waking up to one manifestation of 
this. Busy as it was with its own life, most of the North was indif- 
ferent to the fate of the Negro in the South from the Civil War 
until the late thirties. In the meantime, left to its own devices, the 
South disfranchised Negroes and in time a large number of the 
Southern whites. The Negro was denied the right to vote by means 
of the “grandfather clause” in the constitutions of various Southern 
states; by “white primaries” which in the one-party South are 
equivalent to elections; by so-called “understanding clauses” under 
which a semiliterate white election official could disqualify a Negro 
Ph.D. from Harvard, and by the poll tax and the terrorism of the 
lynching mob. Poor whites were disfranchised chiefly by the poll 
tax and the chicanery of political oligarchists, more ruthless and less 
benevolent than Tammany Hall at the time of its greatest power 
and glory. Congressmen and United States senators were regularly 
elected by as small a proportion of the potential electorate as two 
to live per cent, in contrast to an average of sixty to eighty per cent 
in the North. As a result, men not representative of the more edu- 
cated and decent South were able to build up political machines 
which made their reelection ridiculously easy and perfunctory. The 
seniority rule of the Congress elevates these men to the chairman- 
ships of important Senate and House committees and creates a 
situation which, in the 1940’s, enabled the South, with twenty-eight 
per cent of the nation’s population, to hold as many as sixty per 
cent of the Senate and House chairmanships. 

The determination of the anti-Negro element in the South to 
keep its power no matter what the Constitution or the remainder of 
the country said can better be understood in the light of these facts. 

In 1910 the Oklahoma legislature amended the constitution of the 
state to prohibit any person from voting unless he was able to read 
and write, or unless an ancestor had been eligible to vote prior to 
January i, 1866, in which case he could vote, even if he was illiter- 
ate. Thus the Oklahoma legislature believed that (by not mention- 
ing race or color) it had successfully effected violation of the federal 
Constitution. Other Southern legislatures followed suit by <^arring 
similar constitutional amendments. 

Although the NAACP had not been organized until 1909, one 

Gilding the Lily-White Vote 85 

of its first acts was to urge the Solicitor General of the United States 
to challenge the constitutionality of the Oklahoma “grandfather 
clause,” as it speedily came to be known. 

Moorfield Storey, the first president of the NAACP, and a for- 
mer president of the American Bar Association, filed a brief amicus 
curiae on behalf of the NAACP and joined in the argument of the 
Oklahoma case, Guinn v. United States } Decision in the case (ren- 
dered in June 1915) was written and read by Mr. Chief Justice 
Edward D. White, who, interestingly enough, came from Louisiana. 
It stated unequivocally that, although the Oklahoma amendment did 
not, in specific words, deny suffrage to anyone because of “race, 
color, or previous condition of servitude,” its enforcement auto- 
matically did so, and so was a violation of the Fifteenth Amend- 
ment of the Constitution of the United States. 

The Supreme Court’s decision stopped other Southern states 
from enacting discriminatory clauses of this sort. They believed that 
they could keep Negroes from voting by means of lynchings, which 
had grown to an average of two hundred annually, and by such 
devices as the poll tax and understanding clauses. 

Oklahoma concocted another device. Immediately after the 
“grandfather clause” decision, the legislature amended the state con- 
stitution to provide that those already registered would remain 
qualified voters but that all others must register within twelve days 
or be forever barred from registering. Had this gone unchallenged, 
the purpose of the “grandfather clause” would have been achieved, 
since Negroes, having been prevented from registering prior to that 
time, would forever be barred from voting by the new act. The 
NAACP crossed swords with Oklahoma over this law when a Negro 
by the name of I. L. Lane attempted to register in Wagoner 
County, Oklahoma, was refused, and appealed to us for help. We 
took the case to the United States Supreme Court. The court, in a 
decision rendered May 22, 1939, declared the Oklahoma “twelve- 
day” law a violation of the Fifteenth Amendment. 

In the meantime the Seventeenth Amendment, providing for 
direct elections of United States senators, had been made a part of 
the federal Constitution. Texas took the initiative in attempting dis- 

^ 238 U.S. 347. 

86 A Mm Called White 

franchisement of Negroes by utilization of the amendment. Its legis- 
lature passed a law that “in no event shall a Negro be eligible to 
participate in a Democratic Party election held in the State of 
Texas.” Other Southern states gleefully prepared to follow the ex- 
ample of Texas by passing similar laws. A successful Negro physi- 
cian of El Paso, Dr. L. A. Nixon, appealed to the NAACP for 
assistance in challenging this law. We agreed to enter the case. 

Dr. Nixon filed suit for damages against election officials who 
refused the ballot. The defense promptly moved to dismiss the 
action on the ground that the subject matter of the suit was “politi- 
cal” and that no violation of the Constitution had been shown. 
The defendant’s motion was sustained and the suit dismissed in the 
lower courts. We were prepared for this, since in most of these 
court cases we lost the decisions in the lower courts and won them 
on appeal to the Supreme Court. We thereupon filed a petition for 
a writ of error to take the case directly to the United States Su- 
preme Court. Fred C. Knollenberg, our Texas attorney, and Arthur 
Spingarn pleaded our case, and in spite of obstacles placed in our 
way by the archconservative and obviously unfriendly Justice Van 
Devanter, Mr. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, on March 7, 1927, 
handed down the Court’s sweeping decision in our favor. Texas 
political chicanery was scathingly rebuked in these words: 

The objection that the subject matter of the suit is political is little 
more than a play upon words. Of course the petition concerns political 
action, but it alleges and seeks to recover for private damages. That 
private damage may be caused by such political action and may be re- 
covered for in a suit at law hardly has been doubted. 

The statute of Texas in the teeth of the prohibitions referred to as- 
sumes to forbid Negroes to take part in a primary election the impor- 
tance of which we have indicated, discriminating against them by the 
distinction of color alone. States may do a good deal of classifying that 
it is difficult to believe rational, but there are limits, and it is too clear 
for extended argument that color cannot be made the basis of a statutory 
classification affecting the right set up in this case. 

In our jubilation over the victory, we naively believed that dis- 
franchisement by means of “white Democratic primaries” was set- 
tled. We were soon disillusioned and faced with a new legal strat- 
agem from Texas. Governor Dan Moody of Texas promptly 

Gilding the Lily-White Vote 87 

denounced the decision and declared that Texas would not permit 
Negroes to vote, no matter what the Supreme Court said. The gov- 
ernor boasted that a new and constitutional method would be found 
to maintain white political control of Texas elections. Moody called 
a special session of the Texas state legislature to pass a new statute 
empowering the state Democratic committee to decide its own rule 
on who would be permitted to vote in primaries. Immediately 
thereafter the state executive committee of the Democratic Party 
passed a resolution providing that “all white Democrats who are 
qualified under the Constitution and laws of Texas and none others 
are to be allowed to participate in the primary elections.” 

Dr. Nixon presented himself again for registration and again was 
refused the right to register. Supported by the NAACP, he sued for 
damages in the federal courts against the election officials. Again 
the lower courts dismissed his action and again an appeal was car- 
ried to the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Justice Benjamin Car- 
dozo, on May 2, 1932, spoke for the majority of the court in a 
five-to-four decision, in which Messrs. Justices Van Devanter, 
Sutherland, McReynolds, and Butler dissented. The decision de- 
clared in part: 

We do not impugn the competence of the legislature to designate the 
agencies whereby the party faith shall be declared and the party disci- 
pline enforced. The pith of the matter is simply this, that when those 
agencies are invested with an authority independent of the will of the 
association in whose name they undertake to speak, they become to that 
extent the organs of the State itself, the repositories of official power. 
They are then the governmental instruments whereby parties are or- 
ganized and regulated to the end that government itself may be estab- 
lished or continued. What they do in that relation, they must do in 
submission to the mandates of equality and liberty that bind officials 
everywhere. . . . 

Delegates of the State’s power have discharged their official functions 
in such a way as to discriminate invidiously between white citizens and 
black. The Fourteenth Amendment, adopted as it was with special 
solicitude for the equal protection of members of the Negro race, lays 
a duty upon the court to level by its judgment these barriers of color. 

Despite the sweeping edict of the Court, Texas legislators and 
politicians continued to try to find a loophole. They believed that 

88 A Man Called White 

if the state Democratic convention instead of the state executive 
committee voted to bar all but whites from the primary they would 
be upheld in such action by the Supreme Court. The state conven- 
tion thereupon so voted. By this time the two cases involving Dr. 
Nixon had received such widespread publicity in Texas, and Negroes 
in that state had been so stirred by the fight for enfranchisement, 
that they wanted immediately to test this latest subterfuge. A case 
(Grovey v. Townsend) was initiated despite the NAACP’s advice 
against bringing it in that form. Our apprehensions, unfortunately, 
were proved sound. The Supreme Court held that a vote of the 
state convention of a political party could constitutionally restrict 
participation in the primary of that party, provided the expenses of 
such primaries were paid by the party and not by the state. 

It should not be difficult to imagine the gloom we all felt. Years 
of hard work and heavy expense appeared to have gone for naught. 
But we could not afford to give up in despair. We had to continue 
the struggle, whatever the cost, to make effective what should have 
been settled for all time by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amend- 
ments— the right of every qualified citizen to vote regardless of race. 

We searched for the ideal circumstances and litigant to present 
the issue accurately and overcome the setback we had suffered in 
Qrovey v. Townsend, In 1941 Dr. Lonnie E. Smith of Houston 
brought action in the district federal court in Texas for damages 
and a declaratory judgment against the practice, custom, and usage 
of refusing to permit qualified Negro electors to vote in Texas 
Democratic primary elections, and his case was handled at his re- 
quest by NAACP lawyers. 

Thurgood Marshall, special counsel of the Association, and Wil- 
liam H. Hastie, former federal judge and later governor of the 
Virgin Islands, served as chief counsel for Dr. Smith. They con- 
tended that the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, Article I of 
the United States Constitution, and the Federal Civil Rights Statutes 
prohibited the denial to Dr. Smith or any other qualified Negro 
voter of the right to participate in primaries. Again the local fed- 
eral court ruled against us. Again the case was appealed to the 
United States Circuit Court of Appeals, which on November 30, 
1942, affirmed the decision of the lower court. An appeal for a writ 

Qilding the Lily-White Vote 89 

of certiorari was granted by the United States Supreme Court on 
June 7, 1943. 

Again the Supreme Court, in what has come to be known as the 
Srmth V. Allwright case, decided with us, overruling its former deci- 
sion in Grovey v. Townsend. The following paragraph, quoted from 
the decision (April 3, 1944) states as well as anything I know the 
basic illegality of denying the vote to any citizen of the United 
States because of his color: 

When primaries become a part of the machinery for choosing officials, 
state and national, as they have here, the same tests to determine the 
character of discrimination or abridgment should be applied to the 
primary as are applied to the general election. . . . 

It may now be taken as a postulate that the right to vote in such a 
primary for the nomination of candidates without discrimination by the 
State, like the right to vote in a general election, is a right secured by the 
Constitution. United States vs. Classic, 313 U.S. at 314; Myers vs. Ander- 
son, 238 U.S. 368; Ex parte Yarborough, no U.S. 651, 663 et seq. By the 
terms of the Fifteenth Amendment that right may not be abridged by 
any state on account of race. 

The United States is a constitutional democracy. Its organic law grants 
to all citizens a right to participate in the choice of elected officials with- 
out restriction by any state because of race. This grant to the people of 
the opportunity for choice is not to be nullified by a state through 
casting its electoral process in a form which permits a private organiza- 
tion to practice racial discrimination in the election. Constitutional rights 
would be of little value if they could be thus indirectly denied. 

Many Southern states bowed to the inevitable when the United 
States Supreme Court handed down its decision in Smith v. All- 
wright. In the Congressional and other elections of 1946, large num- 
bers of Negroes voted in both primary and general elections in 
Texas, Georgia, and other Southern states, including Mississippi— 
despite the scandalous behavior of Senator Bilbo, who advocated 
mob violence against Negroes who dared to vote. 

But South Carolina, one of the more backward states, sought to 
evade the Supreme Court’s decision. George Elmore attempted to 
vote in the August 13, 1946, Democratic primary in Richland 
County. He and other Negroes were refused ballots. He ap- 
pealed to us for aid and we brought action in his behalf in the 
United States District Court in the Eastern District of South Carolina 

90 A Mm Called White 

on the basis of the Supreme Court’s decision in STnith v. Allwright. 
The case was argued before Judge J. Waties Waring, member of 
a distinguished South Carolina family. The decision he handed down 
was prompt, unequivocal, and vigorous. 

His opinion quoted at length the address to the state legislature 
of the then Govemer Olin D. Johnston. The latter was elected to 
the United States Senate as successor to “Cotton Ed” Smith. Gov- 
ernor Johnston’s speech had been delivered to a special session of 
the South Carolina Legislature, after the United States Supreme 
Court had handed down its decision in Smith v. Allwright. John- 
ston had recommended that South Carolina repeal “all primary laws 
from statute books” as a means of circumventing the higher court’s 
decision, after which action he asserted, “We will have done every- 
thing within our power to guarantee white supremacy in our pri- 
maries and in our State in so far as legislation is concerned. Should 
this prove inadequate, we South Carolinians will use the necessary 
methods to retain white supremacy in our primaries and to safe- 
guard the homes and happiness of our people. White supremacy will 
be maintained in our primaries. Let the chips fall where they may!” 
So said Governor Johnston. 

Judge Waring coolly and with devastating logic examined this 
attempted evasion of the Constitution and of the Supreme Court’s 
edicts. Riddling its fallacies with unmerciful accuracy, he declared 
ironically that the state’s proposals were utterly unconstitutional and 

For too many years the people of this Country and perhaps particu- 
larly of this State have evaded realistic issues. In these days when this 
nation and the nations of the world are forced to face facts in a realistic 
manner and when this country is taking the lead in maintaining the 
democratic process and attempting to show to the world that the Ameri- 
can Government and the American way of life is the fairest and best 
that has yet been suggested, it is time for us to take stock of our internal 
affairs ... it is time for South Carolina to rejoin the Union. It is time 
to fall in step with the other States and to adopt the American way of 
conducting elections. • . . Racial distinctions cannot exist in the machin- 
ery that selects the officers and law-makers of the United States; and all 
citizens of this State and Country are entitled to cast a free and untram- 
melled ballot in our elections, and if the only material and realistic 

Gilding the Lily-White Vote 91 

elections are clothed with the name primary, they are equally entitled to 
vote there. 

An appeal was taken to the United States Circuit Court of Ap- 
peals, which, six weeks after argument in that Court, affirmed on 
December 30, 1947, Judge Waring’s vigorous and uncompromising 
decision. The opinion of the Circuit Court of Appeals was written 
and delivered by Judge John J. Parker: 

An essential feature of our form of government is the right of the 
citizen to participate in the governmental process. The political philos- 
ophy of the Declaration of Independence is that governments derive 
their just powers from the consent of the governed; and the right to a 
voice in the selection of officers of government on the part of all citizens 
is important not only as a means of insuring that government shall have 
the strength of popular support but also as a means of securing to the 
individual citizen proper consideration of his rights by those in power. 
The disfranchised can never speak with the same force as those who are 
able to vote. . . . Denial to the Negro of the right to participate in the 
primary denies him of effective voice in the government of his Country. 
There can be no question that such denial amounts to the denial of the 
constitutional rights to the Negro; and we think it equally clear that 
those who participate in the denial are exercising state power to that 
end, since the primary is used in connection with the general election 
in the selection of state officers. 

But even these two sweeping decisions do not seem at the time 
of writing to end the matter. The advocates of white supremacy 
and disfranchisement have announced that they will appeal to the 
United States Supreme Court! 

We will, of course, meet them there. 

In many Southern states Negroes today vote with complete free- 
dom and their votes are eagerly sought by rival factions of the 
Democratic Party. The entire nation is the beneficiary. Now that 
Negroes vote more widely in the South, fewer bigots whose sole 
appeal is anti-Negroism will be elected to office to disgrace the na- 
tion in the eyes of the world. Although the poll tax and the dishonest 
use of understanding clauses continue to act as barriers to full en- 
franchisement, they too are on their way out. The fight has been 
long and expensive, but it has accomplished a great deal. It has been 
well worth making. 


Villa Sweefum 

When, in 1926 , 1 received a Guggenheim Fellowship Grant for crea- 
tive writing in any foreign country to which I chose to go, Gladys 
and 1 had a fascinating time considering the relative advantages of 
the far places of the earth. Our second child was scheduled to arrive 
in June 1927. We had to find a place where the cost of living was 
low because the $2,500 fellowship, though ample for a single person, 
would not go far for a family of four. The decision was made for 
us by Rebecca West and G. B. Stern, then on a visit to the United 
States. At a party at Carl and Fania Van Vechten’s house they told 
us one evening that a furnished house could be rented for fifty dol- 
lars a year at Villefranche-sur-Mer on the French Riviera. “It’s the 
one place worth living in which British and American tourists 
haven’t invaded,” they told us, “and it’s the most beautiful place in 
southern France.” After weeks of frenzied flesh- and spirit-wearying 
packing and arranging for a year’s absence, we sailed late in July 
aboard a one-class ship. 

We went first to Paris, where one night William Aspenwall Brad- 
ley took us to a superb dinner at his favorite rendezvous des cockers 
and afterward to his lovely apartment to meet Isadora Duncan and 
to hear Paul Robeson’s first phonograph records. As “Go Down, 
Moses” in Paul’s magnificent voice filled the room. Miss Duncan 
rose and began to dance. As though she had shed a robe she had 
been wearing, her weight and age seemed to disappear. The song 
finished, we all sat there mute, too deeply moved by the music and 
dance to speak. The dancer sank to the floor, exhausted by the emo- 
tional experience she had undergone. Lines of age and weariness 

Villa Sweefnm 93 

again etched her face. It seemed utterly incongruous that this aging 
woman had but a few seconds before been the lithe, graceful figure 
which had so deeply moved us all. 

From Paris we went to Villefranche, the rugged beauty of which 
magnificently lived up to its advance billing by Rebecca West and 
G. B. Stern. Jean Cocteau and his Bosuf sur le Toit following had 
not yet “discovered” Villefranche despite its proximity to Nice, 
Mentone, Monte Carlo, and Cannes. The only other English-speak- 
ing residents then were Glenway Wescott and Monroe Wheeler, 
whom we seldom saw. 

M. Lassabliere, the one local real estate agent, having tried first 
to rent us chateaux far beyond our means, finally clapped his hand 
on his forehead and exclaimed, ^^Sacre bleu! Why have I not thought 
of Villa Sweet’um?” (At least that is what we thought he said.) Off 
we went up the winding road called the Moyen Corniche, to arrive 
at the house we had dreamed of. Smoky pink walls and red tile roof 
gleamed in the warm Mediterranean sunlight. Eight large rooms 
furnished in rococo but not too garish style, brand-new silver and 
china and glassware, ^^chauffrage centraV'" for coolish nights, electric 
lights, running water, bathtub and hot-water heaters for bathroom 
and kitchen, garage with servants’ quarters— everything one could 
desire was there. And the rent only two hundred and fifty dollars a 
year! The name, which had been given the villa by a romantic 
Parisian woman, was “Home, Sweet Home!” 

The fellowship had been granted to write a three-generation 
novel of Negro life. It yet remains to be written. I had thought that, 
far away from the American scene, I would be able, in the absence 
of the daily fare of lynching and injustice with which the NAACP 
constantly dealt, to devote myself to leisurely pursuit of belles- 
lettres. But distance, strangely enough, seemed to accentuate rather 
than diminish concern with what was happening back home to those 
who could do so little to help themselves. Perhaps it was due to the 
fact that in the midst of such idyllic beauty there was leisure to 
think about the content of letters from James Weldon Johnson and 
others in the Association about this lynching or that one; this fight 
in Congress or the other; the diflSculty of raising money as America 

94 A Man Called White 

pulled itself slowly out of one depression and, unwittingly, headed 
for another destined to be the worst of all. Or perhaps it was be- 
cause the Nice and Paris newspapers, which then published only 
occasional items about the United States, invariably featured news of 
lynchings and race riots. 

Under these influences I found myself writing, instead of a novel, 
a study of the complex influences— economic, political, social, reli- 
gious, sexual— behind the gruesome, and too little understood, phe- 
nomenon of lynching, under the title Rope and Faggot. 

The Sacco-Vanzetti case, then approaching its tragic climax, 
added measurably to the local feeling against the United States. We 
seldom went into town. But we knew what was going on far better 
than we could have learned ourselves, thanks to our bonne i tout 
faire, Victoria. Looking somewhat like a gargoyle, she could cook 
like an angel. But she was far more than a servant. Being part Italian 
and part French, she had a passionate interest in the rise of Mus- 
solini, then being extolled by Americans because he had caused the 
trains to run on time and cleaned up the sections of Italian, cities 
likely to be explored by tourists. It was from Victoria that we 
learned, after she had worked for us long enough to find out where 
our sympathies lay, that her house on the waterfront was one of 
die stations of a latter-day Underground Railroad similar to those 
in the United States prior to the Civil War. Villefranche is only a 
few kilometers from the Italian border. Night after night Italians 
fled Mussoliniland under protection of darkness. Many of them hid 
during the day in Victoria’s modest home, to take off again at 
nightfall to lose themselves deeper in France. Occasionally she would 
permit us to talk with some of the refugees from fascism. 

The rapidity with which days passed at Villefranche as noted in 
the datelines of the Nice I'Eclaireur was a constant source of aston- 
ishment. To be able to sit on the terrace and look down on the 
lovely bay of Villefranche and off in the distance at the constantly 
changing, colorful beauty of the tiny peninsula which formed the 
left arm of the harbor made the first leisure I had ever known in 
adult life a never-ending peace and happiness. 

But that idyllic experience was rudely ended when the opening of 
the fashionable season brought its influx of tourists— whereas before 

Villa Sweefum 95 

one seldom heard any language but French. We could not emerge 
from our villa except to run into tourists rushing madly from 
Cannes or Nice to Monte Carlo and back again. With painful fre- 
quency the noisiest, most drunken, and most unpleasant tourists were 
Americans, many of whom freely expressed their low opinion of 
“foreigners” oblivious to whether or not English, as they spoke it, 
was understood by the natives. Prices skyrocketed. The most pain- 
ful economy was insufficient to meet the tremendously increased 
cost of living. What had been an ideal existence was speedily con- 
verted into a nightmare. M. Lassabliere was frugally sympathetic 
when we told him we would have to go elsewhere. We knew as 
well as he that he would have no difficulty renting our villa for as 
much for the season as we were paying for the year. He was gener- 
ous enough, therefore, to release us from the lease for one half the 
balance of the rent for the year. Half the town came down to the 
tiny railroad station to bid us good-by when we left for Avignon. 

Again good luck attended our househunting. We rented the 
second-floor apartment belonging to M. Jules Pochy, a dealer in 
Proven9al furniture, which was then coming into vogue with 
American tourists. M. Pochy’s mother and father lived on the third 
floor, while his shop filled the street floor. 

Thanks to the Pochys, we were soon accepted. Of an afternoon, 
after writing during the earlier part of the day, I used to sit at a 
sidewalk cafe at the Place d’Horloge with my friend Henri, who 
was a guide at the Palais des Papes. Henri must have been one of 
the handsomest Frenchmen who ever lived. No small part of his 
income must have been expended on pomades for his beard and 
mustache. He had once gone as far from Avignon as Paris, but had 
not liked the experience. He had so steeped himself in the history, 
folklore, and beauty of Provence that for him the sum and summa- 
tion of all human experience was concentrated there. One day we 
talked, for some inexplicable reason, of echoes. Henri’s shoulders 
squared themselves and he tossed his head proudly in a manner to 
which I was now becoming accustomed. 

“I shall demonstrate to you, m’sieu, the most beautiful echo in the 
world. Come with me!” 

Making sure to drain the last drop of his drink before leaving, he 

96 A Man Called White 

rose, and we txudged up the hill to the Palais des Papes. With a 
flourish he ushered me into the hall of Clement VI. The only object 
in the room was the chalky white sarcophagus of the long-dead 
pope. The late-aftemoon golden sunlight streaming in through tall, 
narrow slits of windows marked off the grayish-white floors and 
walls like the lines on a football field. Henri guided me to one of 
the corners of the huge room, where he began to sing parts of a 
Mass in what had once been an excellent baritone and in which 
even then his age was noticeable only in the higher notes. 

Like a response from a far-off invisible choir the sound came back 
to us. It was a moment of complete beauty. 

We trudged down the hill in silence, and no word was spoken 
even when we touched hands in parting. 

Before returning to America I went to England and Scotland 
under the auspices of the English Society of Friends to lecture on 
various aspects of the race question in the United States. The people 
I met in the homes in which I was entertained came so dangerously 
close to making me an anglophile that one of my hosts, an elderly 
and kindly Quaker, admonished me with pardonable pride, “Don’t 
judge all of England by the people you are meeting— we have some 
bad ones in England too.” 

I was fortunate enough to participate in one of the fights for 
principle of the English Quakers. Lady Simon, wife of Lord John 
Simon who later became Chancellor of the Exchequer, was respon- 
sible for the revelation that many thousands of natives were being 
held in slavery in the African territory of Sierra Leone, which was 
administered by the British under a mandate from the League of 
Nations. Despite the exposure and debate of the facts in Parliament, 
there seemed to be considerable doubt that any corrective action 
would be taken. The Quakers swung into action immediately and 
arranged a huge meeting of protest in the Guild Hall of Hull, at 
which I was asked to speak. 

The speaker who immediately preceded me was John H. Harris, 
member of Parliament and director of the Anti-Slavery and 
Aborigines Protection Society. Mr. Harris was earnest and eloquent. 

Villa Sweefvm 97 

but addicted to nationalist cliches similar to those which Americans 
are accustomed to hear at Fourth of July celebrations. 

“No injustice is ever permitted to exist under the Union Jack!” 
he orated, ignoring the frowns of doubt on the faces of many of 
his audience. He went on to speak of “our distinguished visitor 
from overseas” as preface to excoriation of the United States for 
permitting lynching to continue, which crime, he alleged, would 
be impossible anywhere within the British Empire. 

I was faced with a dilemma. As a guest in England, should I ignore 
the speaker’s remarks or take issue with them? I determined to do 
the latter, even at the risk of being guilty of bad taste. For the first 
time in my life I found myself being dangerously close to a “one 
hundred per cent American.” Angrily I abandoned the manuscript 
I had carefully prepared and pointed out that the British govern- 
ment had sided with and greatly aided the South in our American 
Civil War, and that British ships had earned huge sums by the 
slave trade. I went on to declare that much of the wealth of near-by 
Liverpool had been derived from cheap American cotton produced 
by slaves. I freely admitted the shame of lynching in my own country 
and pointed out that neither nation had much to be proud of as to 
the slave trade and the theft of property and labor from colored 
peoples under imperialism. 

I did not know and, in my annoyance, did not particularly care, 
what the reaction of the audience would be. To my surprise an ova- 
tion followed my speech, many of the audience coming to me after- 
ward to express agreement with what I had said and admiration 
that I had pulled no punches. 

I gained far more knowledge on this trip than I imparted. But I 
did tell audiences not only the grim facts about lynching and 
peonage and disfranchisement in the United States, but also of the 
fight being waged by Negroes and whites to implement the ideals 
of democracy. I read James Weldon Johnson’s extraordinary God^s 
Trombones—Seven Negro Sermons in Verse. Although I did not 
read them very well, the imaginative poetry of the old-time Negro 
preacher who had taken, in Jim’s words, the imagery and “the 
sublime phraseology of the Hebrew prophet” which were “steeped 
in the idioms of King James English” and transformed them into fig- 

98 A Man Called White 

ures of speech and experience familiar to his audience, was loved 

by my audiences. 

I move ahead of my story slightly here to tell of the product of 
my Guggenheim year. 

Rope and Faggot^ ironically subtitled “The Biography of Judge 
Lynch,” was published in 1929 and was cordially received by re- 
viewers, including many in the South, as the first attempt to analyze 
the causative factors of lynchings. I was immensely pleased that a 
number of colleges, universities, and high schools included the book 
in their required reading or reference lists. And I was flattered that 
several writers and columnists chose to refer to the “Rope and 
Faggot Line” as a new synonym for Mason and Dixon’s line. 

Al Smith and the Negro Vote 

In the late spring of 1928 I received a cablegram in Avignon from 
my friend Charles H. Studin asking whether I could return to the 
United States for a conference on a very important matter. Charlie 
Studin is a distinguished and successful New York lawyer with a 
magnificent talent for friendship who has for many years served 
as a member of the board of directors and of the national legal com- 
mittee of the NAACP. His cable was so cryptic that I cabled him in 
return that unless it were a matter of life or death which no one 
else could handle I would prefer not to leave France at that time. 

Charlie replied, still somewhat mysteriously, that Alfred E. Smith, 
New York’s Governor, wanted my advice on an important matter. 
He assured me that I could return to France almost immediately 
without the loss of more than two or three weeks. He asked me as a 
special favor to him to make the trip. I sailed for New York a few 
days later. 

When I reached New York, Charlie introduced me to one of the 
most colorful and forceful individuals I have ever known— Mrs. Belle 
Moskowitz. I had known her husband. Dr. Henry Moskowitz, who 
had been working for years to improve living and working condi- 
tions in New York City, particularly among immigrants on the 
Lower East Side. Dr. Moskowitz had been one of the signers of the 
call to the organization meeting of the NAACP. 

Mrs. Moskowitz told me that Al Smith and his advisers had de- 
cided to make the first open and aggressive campaign to win the 
support of the Negro vote for the Democratic ticket in the presi- 
dential election. The Governor planned, if elected president, to ex- 


loo A Man Called White 

tend to the nation the benefits of the social legislation New York 
state enjoyed because of the pioneer work by Governor Smith, 
Senator Robert F. Wagner, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. She told me 
that Charlie Studin had explained to her that the NAACP was a 
nonpolitical organization and that none of its paid executives were 
permitted to engage in partisan political activity. She asked me if I 
would consider taking a leave of absence from the Association to 
direct a campaign on Governor Smith’s behalf among Negroes. I 
told her that I would not do so and that furthermore I opposed the 
setting up of a racially segregated campaign bureau. 

She voiced her disappointment but made no further attempt to 
persuade me. She then asked me if I would be willing to talk with 
Governor Smith at Albany and advise him on what Negroes were 
demanding and thinking. This I agreed to do if it were made clear 
that I was not to be a participant in his campaign. 

The Governor greeted me cordially enough but I had a strangely 
uncomfortable feeling, which was confirmed when he offered me a 
good job, if elected, in return for my support among Negroes. 
When, to his surprise, I had finally convinced him that no induce- 
ment would persuade me to enter a political campaign, our conver- 
sation became constructive. He told me of his ambition to see Con- 
gress enact legislation to wipe out the vast inequalities in income and 
status among the American people, which, he feared, would in- 
evitably lead to conflict which would destroy America if not 

He then came to the reasons for wanting to talk with me. “I know 
Negroes distrust the Democratic Party, and I can’t blame them. But 
I want to show them that the old Democratic Party, ruled entirely 
by the South, is on its way out, and that we Northern Democrats 
have a totally different approach to the Negro.” 

I asked him how he proposed to demonstrate this conversion, to 
which he replied that he had asked me to come in to help him plan 
a program. 

One of my suggestions was that he issue a detailed and unequivocal 
statement making it clear to the Negro and to the country gener- 
ally that, if elected, he would be president of all the people and 
would not be ruled by the anti-Negro South. He assured me that 

Al Smith and the Negro Vote loi 

he would do this and he asked me if I would draft the statement. 

Days and then weeks passed without a word from Albany after I 
had sent him the statement. Mrs. Moskowitz told me one day that 
Senator Joseph T. Robinson of Arkansas, Smith’s choice as candi- 
date for vice-president, and Senator Pat Harrison had bitterly op- 
posed the issuance of any statement, however mild, by Governor 
Smith, and that Judge Joseph Proskauer, close personal friend and 
adviser of Smith, believed that such a statement would too greatly 
antagonize the South. I found myself sorry for Mrs. Moskowitz at 
being assigned the unpleasant job of telling me this. Almost plain- 
tively she asked, “Can’t you— won’t you take the Governor on faith 
as we have?” 

I explained why I could not, telling her that any usefulness I 
might have would be ended if I supported Governor Smith and he 
were then elected and forced by the ruthless and dominant South- 
ern wing of the Democratic Party to do things which would be 
against the best interests of the Negro. 

Because Herbert Hoover demonstrated an even greater unwilling- 
ness to show in any fashion that he regarded Negroes as citizens 
and human beings, and because of Al Smith’s record in New York 
state, many Negroes voted for Smith, despite his silence. 

Shortly before her death, Mrs. Moskowitz told me that, after 
his defeat, Al Smith had told her that he wished he had signed the 
statement and made an all-out bid for the Negro vote. He was con- 
vinced that he would thereby have won enough votes in pivotal 
Northern and border states, which he had lost by narrow margins, 
to elect him. 

The Man in the Lily-White House 

My return to France was postponed several times at the insistence of 
Mrs. Moskowitz and Charlie Studin until the imminent expiration 
of my leave of absence from the Association made needlessly ex- 
pensive the return trip. Gladys and the children remained in Paris, 
to return in the fall, while I resumed my work with the NAACP. 

The second Texas primary case, already described, was on its way 
to the United States Supreme Court. Our unrelenting campaign 
against lynching and the increasing public condemnation of the 
crime had begun to show effect. The annual number of lynchings 
had declined from an average of two hundred to eleven in 1929. 
But we found that the improvement was more apparent than real. 
The South was becoming almost pathologically sensitive on the 
subject and resentful of “outside interference.” The practice was de- 
veloping, we learned, of suppressing the news of lynchings or re- 
porting such mob murders as instances of criminals being killed by 
“posses.” This new strategy required increased alertness and consid- 
erably more effort to ferret out the crimes and establish their au- 
thenticity. In this we were tremendously aided by the steady growth 
of NAACP branches in Southern states and by friends, both white 
and Negro, who kept us informed, often at danger of reprisals 
from the mobs for doing so. 

The situation was accented by an event in our World War One 
jimerow army. A twelve-year campaign on behalf of members 
of the all-Negro 24th Infantry Regiment was ending. In 1917 these 
Negro soldiers, goaded to desperation by repeated acts of hostility 
at Brownsville, Texas, and the failure of the War Department and 


The Man in the Lily-White House 103 

other branches of the federal government to protect them, had re- 
sisted with arms. In the riot which followed a number of both 
Negroes and whites were injured, and some were killed. Immedi- 
ately the machinery of the law swung into action— against the 
Negroes. No charges were made against whites. 

The NAACP had investigated the riot, engaged a local white 
attorney to defend the men in courts-martial, and had publicized 
the facts throughout the country. Despite the maximum efforts 
which the then small Association could muster, thirteen members of 
the 24th Infantry were executed on December ii, 1917, and six 
others subsequently. The Association had gathered twelve thou- 
sand signatures to a petition which was presented to President Wil- 
son in 1918, and fifty thousand signatures to another presented to 
President Harding in 1921. A number of death sentences had been 
commuted to life imprisonment as a result, and later there were 
further reductions and the eventual release of men whose martyrdom 
forms a tragic page in American history. 

The success, though limited, of the fight for the 24th Infantry, 
and the demonstration of dogged determination which went into it, 
played a decisive role in preventing outbreaks of such major propor- 
tions during World War Two. Both at home and overseas there 
were a tragically large number of injustices perpetrated upon 
Negroes due to segregation in the armed services, as I was destined 
to learn in the years 1943 to 1945 European and Pacific 

theaters of war. But in World War Two there was a notable ad- 
vance in the active opposition by military and naval leaders to 
mistreatment of colored soldiers and sailors. Outstanding were Gen- 
eral Eisenhower, Admiral Nimitz, Secretary of War Patterson, and 
President Roosevelt. 

Greatly increased work and responsibility were added in 1929 
when Jim was granted a year’s leave of absence to serve as a 
member of the American delegation to the Institute of Pacific Rela- 
tions, held that year at Kyoto, Japan, and to accept a fellowship 
from the Julius Rosenwald Fund for creative writing. I blithely 
accepted the responsibility of acting secretary, wholly unaware of 
the difficult days immediately ahead. The stock market was climbing 
to dizzier heights than ever before in history. The unemployment 

104 ^ Called White 

and apprehension of the early twenties were disappearing, even for 
Negroes, as millions of Americans dreamed of becoming millionaires 
by stock market speculation, and the psychology of unending and 
unlimited prosperity and peace created a fool’s paradise. 

But our already precarious financial situation became desperate 
soon after the stock market crash in October 1929. As business firms 
and factories failed, Negroes began to lose many of the skilled and 
semiskilled jobs they had gained with such difficulty during and 
immediately after the war. The grim years were upon us, and inter- 
racial tensions began to mount too. The “Great Engineer” sat stolidly 
in the White House, refusing bluntly to receive Negro citizens who 
wished to lay before him the facts of their steadily worsening plight 
or to consider any remedial legislation or governmental action. His 
attitude to Negroes caused me to coin a phrase which gained con- 
siderable currency, particularly in the Negro world, in which I 
described Hoover as “the man in the lily- White House.” 

Hoover’s attitude toward Negroes and minorities generally was 
made dramatically evident in 1930 when Supreme Court Justice 
Sanford died and the President sent to the Senate the name of John 
J. Parker of North Carolina in nomination for the seat. Parker was 
then a judge of the United States Circuit Court whose record was 
almost totally unknown. As the Senate might vote on the nomina- 
tion at any time, it was imperative that we move with the utmost 
speed. Long distance telephone calls and telegrams were sent to key 
Negro and white friends for information on Judge Parker’s attitude 
on the Negro and related questions. 

The first replies from North Carolina reported that the senders 
knew little or nothing about him. And then came a telegram which 
galvanized us into action. It stated that Judge Parker, as a candidate 
on the Republican ticket for governor of North Carolina in 1920, 
had advocated continuation of disfranchisement of Negro citizens. 
We telephoned the sender of this message asking him to get us 
proof, through newspaper clippings, affidavits, or other irrefutable 
material. The following morning we received a yellowed newspaper 
clipping from the Greensboro Daily News of April 19, 1920, in 
which Judge Parker was quoted directly in approval of a 1900 
amendment to the constitution of North Carolina which provided 

The Mm in the Lily--White House 105 

for the payment of a poll tax, for literacy tests of voters, and for 
the inclusion of a grandfather clause despite the fact that the United 
States Supreme Court in the case of Guinn and Beale v. United 
States^ handed down a decision in 1915 holding grandfather clauses 
to be unconstitutional. In addition, Judge Parker had said: 

The participation of the Negro in politics is a source of evil and 
danger to both races and is not desired by the wise men in either race or 
by the Republican Party of North Carolina. 

Plainly this attitude would constitute a grave threat to the future 
of the Negro and to the work in the Negro’s behalf by the NAACP 
if he became a part of the Supreme Court, which at that time was 
distinctly conservative and almost invariably more concerned with 
property rights than with human rights. 

It was decided, therefore, to make inquiry of Judge Parker by 
wire, first, as to whether or not he had been correctly quoted by the 
Greensboro Daily News in the decade-old clipping, and second, 
whether, even if he had made such a statement as a candidate for 
governor in 1920, he still held such beliefs in 1930. To make sure 
that Judge Parker had received the telegram we asked Western 
Union to deliver it to him only and report on its delivery. 

A few hours later Western Union advised us that the telegram 
had been delivered to and signed for personally by Judge Parker. 

In the meantime, the Senate Judiciary Committee had appointed 
a subcommittee to hold hearings on the nomination. The consensus 
of Washington opinion was that the inquiry would be a matter of 
form and that confirmation was inevitable. We waited seventy-two 
hours for Judge Parker’s reply. None came. I presented the facts to 
the NAACP board of directors and it was agreed that we should 
protest and oppose as vigorously as possible Judge Parker’s con- 

Hoover was asked to withdraw the Parker nomination. We r*ited 
as precedent President Taft’s withdrawal of his nomination of 
Judge Hook in 1912 after protest by the NAACP on Hook’s anti- 
Negro record. This request was angrily refused by Hoover. 

It was then voted that I, as acting secretary, should appear before 

^ 238 U.S. 347. 

io6 A Man Called White 

the Senate subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee in opposition 
to Parker’s confirmation. I did so, but scant attention was paid to 
the memorandum I presented. The American Federation of Labor 
had also protested Parker’s confirmation because of decisions he 
had rendered in upholding so-called “yellow-dog” contracts. But 
Parker and his friends had defended themselves by pointing out that 
he had merely followed the precedent of the United States Supreme 
Court in the Hitchman case. 

It was a strange and uncomfortable situation which I found. The 
American Federation of Labor was exceedingly anxious to prevent 
identification of its opposition against Parker with that of Negroes. 
Throughout the fight, the AFL statements abstemiously refrained 
from mentioning Parker’s anti-Negro stand. William Green, presi- 
dent of the AFL, and I entered the hearings room at the same time. 
Although I had met him on several occasions before that day, he 
appeared conspicuously to avoid speaking lest senators on the com- 
mittee, newspapermen, or spectators believe that we were fighting 
as allies in a common battle. I was not called upon by Senator Over- 
man of North Carolina, chairman of the subcommittee, until the 
very end of the hearing. 

When I did speak, both Senators Borah and Overman, particularly 
the latter, became incensed at the temerity of a Negro organization 
presuming to voice an opinion on a nomination to the Supreme 
Court. Overman angrily asked me if I did not know that “niggras 
vote freely throughout North Carolina.” I informed Mr. Overman 
that I did not know this to be true and neither did he, and that 
there was ample proof to the contrary. Senator Borah attempted to 
put me on the defensive by asking involved questions about legal 
decisions which, not being a lawyer, it would have been most foolish 
for me to attempt to answer. I refused to be drawn into such a trap 
and insisted on confining my testimony to the incontrovertible fact 
that Judge Parker, though he had been given an opportunity to do 
so, had not denied having advocated the disfranchisement of Negro 
American citizens despite the explicit provisions of the Fourteenth 
and Fifteenth Amendments. 

After the hearing, we telegraphed every branch of the NAACP, 
particularly those in Northern and border states where Negroes 

The Man in the Lily-White House 107 

voted, urging telegraphic protests by themselves and by church, 
fraternal, labor, civic, educational, and other bodies to be directed 
to senators from those states, urging that they vote against Parker’s 
confirmation. Mass meetings were arranged and addressed by vari- 
ous officers of the national office of the Association, including 
Arthur B. Spingarn, W. E. B. DuBois, and William Pickens. Tele- 
graph blanks were supplied, already addressed to the United States 
senators from each state, for the convenience of the audiences in 
making their protests. Newspaper editors were kept supplied with 
the facts as the campaign developed. 

At first a trickle, the telegrams, letters, petitions, long distance 
telephone calls, and personal visits to senators in Washington grew 
to an avalanche. Two newspaper correspondent friends in Washing- 
ton kept us advised of what was going on behind the scenes. Sena- 
tors who at first had been apathetic or contemptuous began to pay 
attention to the unprecedented articulateness of Negroes. 

As the fight waxed hotter, virtually every trick of legislative 
maneuvering, fair or foul, was utilized. One of the very first was a 
brazen and unequivocal denial that Parker had ever made such a 
statement or that the Greensboro Daily News had ever published 
the now-famous clipping quoting Judge Parker’s anti-Negro speech. 
This charge was made on the floor of the Senate about two p.m. 
The following day at nine a.m. a photostatic copy of the Greens- 
boro Daily News clipping was on the desk of each member of the 
Senate, on President Hoover’s desk, and in the hands of every news- 
paper correspondent in Washington. 

The next charge was that the clipping had been illegally taken 
from the files of the Greensboro Daily News. This charge, because 
it was true, threatened disaster. The North Carolina citizen who had 
sent us the clipping was a Negro whose skin color clearly proved his 
race. Wise in the ways of Dixie, he had known that there would 
have been difficulty in examining ten-year-old files of the newspaper 
had he gone himself to look up the clipping. He had, therefore, sent 
a young Negro who looked white to get the facts, instructing him 
to copy the clipping. But the young Negro had been disinclined to 
copy the lengthy clipping and had used his penknife to cut it from 
the bound file. One of the photostats we had sent to Washington 

to8 A Man Catted White 

had been rushed to Greensboro. It had fitted precisely into the 
mutilated copy of the paper. Fortunately, the episode was soon for- 

Another crisis arose when the sectional issue was raised by 
Parker’s supporters. Lobbyists with thick Southern accents button- 
holed Cole Blease of South Carolina, Pat Harrison of Mississippi, 
Carter Glass of Virginia, and “Cotton Ed” Smith of South CaroUna, 
asking contemptuously whether they were going to bow to the 
“dictation” of a “nigger advancement society.” Our friends in 
Washington reported that this campaign was having effect. It would 
have been futile for us to have approached men like Blease, Smith, 
and Harrison. Coming from states where Negroes were totally dis- 
franchised, we would have had no influence and probably would 
have strengthened their determination to vote for Parker because 
he was a Southerner. Another approach was necessary. We were 
successful in arranging to have fellow senators and other white 
persons of influence with the Southern senators ask if they proposed 
to vote for Parker and thus “help Hoover reward North Carolina 
for going Republican in the 1918 elections”? The stratagem worked 
even on those so notoriously opposed to equal rights for Negroes 
as “Tom-Tom” Heflin of Alabama, Tom Connally of Texas, Joseph 
T. Robinson of Arkansas, and Kenneth McKellar of Tennessee. 

The next trick pulled on us was pressure on “Negro leaders” of 
North Carolina to issue statements in support of Parker and in 
repudiation of the NAACP. But despite threats of physical violence 
and of economic reprisals, this campaign was an almost total failure. 
Only two “Negro leaders” in North Carolina could be induced to 
endorse Parker, and their endorsements were exceedingly temperate. 
One of the two “leaders” was the president of a state school for 
Negroes who was thereby dependent upon the legislature for ap- 
propriations. The other was an almost completely unknown individ- 
ual with a most unimpressive record. Facts concerning these men 
were promptly broadcast to the press, white and colored, by the 

The vigor of the campaign and the importance of the fight made 
die issue front-page news and the subject of editorial comment of 
varying attitudes in newspapers throughout the United States. The 

The Man in the Uly-White Home tog 

Scripps-Howard chain of newspapers, at that time liberal in policy, 
Heywood Broun in his widely syndicated column, and many in- 
dividual newspapers in Northern and border states vigorously sup- 
ported the fight against Parker. 

However, the New York Times was grievously disappointing in 
its attitude, and most of the Southern newspapers were exceedingly 
vicious. In many of them facts were brazenly distorted. False stories 
deliberately designed to becloud the issue and to play on race preju- 
dice were circulated to the effect that the opposition to Parker’s 
confirmation was based on his refusal to “dine with Negroes.” 
Other papers stated that he was being fought only because he did 
not believe that Negroes had “yet developed enough intelligence 
to vote.” Many of the Southern papers and a few in the North 
scurrilously attacked the NAACP, declaring that the charge against 
Parker, despite the incontrovertible proof which had been presented, 
was a “vicious falsehood,” “disreputable politics,” “garbage,” “a 
low publicity stunt,” and other epithets. Vehemently and frequently 
the charge was made that if Parker’s nomination were defeated, 
thereafter no Southerner could hope to sit on the Supreme Court 
bench or occupy other federal office until he had been approved by 
the “National Association for the Advancement of Colored People 
and Walter White.” 

The galleries were packed on May 7th, the day agreed upon for 
a vote on the nomination. We had difficulty in refraining from 
applause when blind Senator Thomas D. Schall of Minnesota entered 
the Senate chamber. He had been dangerously ill but had returned 
to Washington at our urging, although there were very few Negro 
votes in his state. 

The Senate debate was spirited, at times vicious. Its highest note 
came when Senator Wagner, the only member of the upper house 
who dared mention the Negro angle of the opposition although it 
was the one issue in the mind of every senator, rose to speak. He 
minced no words and declared; 

I see a deep and fundamental consistency between his view of labor 
relations and his reported attitude toward colored people of the United 
States. They both spring from a single trait of character. Judged by the 
available record, he is obviously incapable of viewing with sympathy 

no A Mm Called White 

the aspirations of those who are aiming for a higher and better place in 
the world. His sympathies naturally flow out to those who are already 
on top and he has used the authority of his office and the influence of his 
opinion to keep them on top whether they be an exploited economic 
group or a minority racial group. 

The “ayes and nays” were called for, and anxious hands, none 
more so than my own, checked the tally as the tide swung from 
rejection to confirmation and back again. As the clerk droned on 
toward the end of the alphabetical roll, our hopes sank as four 
senators who had pledged to vote against confirmation switched 
their votes under pressure from the White House. But hope, some- 
what bedraggled, revived slightly as several doubtful senators whose 
votes we had not counted on voted “nay.” 

Feverishly we rechecked the tallies we had kept and breathlessly 
awaited, fearing an error on our part, the announcement by the tally 
clerk of the Senate. 

He announced, “For confirmation— 39. Against confirmation— 
41.” The shift of one vote to create a tie would have been a disaster. 

Immediately the opposition newspapers attacked the decision. 
Notable among them were the Montgomery Advertiser, the Nor- 
folk Ledger-Dispatch, and the Macon Telegraph. They furiously 
condemned the senators who had voted against confirmation, som- 
berly bemoaned the state of a nation in which Negroes were allowed 
to “dictate” to its president and legislative body, and direly predicted 
that (in the words of the Macon Telegraph) “no President will 
dare in the future to appoint a man whose views on the Negro 
question are not entirely satisfactory to the Association for the 
Advancement of Colored People. ... In the future the man who is 
appointed to the Supreme Court must pass in review before Walter 
White.” Even the New York Times, choosing to ignore the facts, 
and as unfair in its opinion as many papers in the deep South, said, 
“No principle is at stake. Only a political self-interest is driving on 
these Republican senators (to vote against Parker). . . . Compared 
with them the Negro agitators hot on their trail are straightforward 
and honorable.” 

But, fortunately, many other newspapers, notable among which 
'ms the Washington Post, reported the facts with accuracy and 


The Man in the Lily-White House 
without bias. The Parker fight was recognized as the political com- 
ing of age of the hitherto-ignored Negro voters. The Tost published 
a lengthy feature in its issue of May i8, 1930, by one of its star 
correspondents, A. H. Ulm, in which the new significance of the 
Negro vote and the importance of the NAACP were recognized. 

Dire predictions made by some Southern newspapers and even a 
few Northern ones that Negro opposition to Judge Parker would 
result in race riots happily proved bad prophecy. Equally false has 
been proved the assertion that no Southerner would be confirmed 
for the Supreme Court after Parker’s defeat, as has been proved by 
the confirmation, which Negroes approved or did not oppose, of 
Southerners like Hugo Black of Alabama and Stanley Reed, Fred 
Vinson, and Wiley Rutledge, all of Kentucky. Negro approval or 
disapproval of Supreme Court nominees has been strictly confined 
to consideration of a man’s public and private record on vital issues 
and not of the place of his birth. 

The question presented itself immediately upon the rejection of 
Parker as to what position the NAACP would take on the senators 
who had voted for confirmation. Up to that time we had neither 
endorsed nor opposed political candidates. The Crisis, official pub- 
lication of the NAACP, listed such senators whose terms expired in 
1930, 1932, and 1934, with the prefatory statement: “The following 
Senators have Negro constituents in considerable, if not large num- 
bers, and against the expressed wishes of these constituents, they 
voted for the confirmation of Judge Parker. . . . Paste this in your 
hat and keep it there until November, 1934.” 

There were influential Negroes like the beloved Dean Kelly Miller 
of Howard University who publicly urged that Negroes and their 
friends should be content with Parker’s rejection and take no fur- 
ther steps such as opposition to the reelection of senators who had 
flouted the pleas of Negro and labor voters in their states. However, 
there were others who were equally convinced that, Negro voters 
having served notice during the fight upon their senators that those 
voters would not vote for reelection of any member of the Senate 
who had voted to place a man with Parker’s views on the Supreme 
Court, those threats had to be implemented or else Negro voters 

112 A Matt Called White 

would be laughed at die next dme they appealed to dieir elected rep* 


The extent and nature of the participation of the Association in 
such campaigns was debated lengthily and with great care. Decision 
was finally reached that the unfinished job had to be completed. 
McCulloch of Ohio, Baird of New Jersey, Gillette of Massachusetts, 
Hastings of Delaware, Grundy of Pennsylvania, Goff of West Vir- 
ginia, had voted for confirmation and were candidates for re-election 
in the fall of 1930. Ohio was overwhelmingly Republican. The stock 
market crash of 1929 had not yet lessened the flow of campaign 
funds for Republican candidates. I was instructed by the NAACP 
board of directors to campaign only through meetings arranged by 
the NAACP branches in Ohio and not through any political or- 
ganization against McCulloch on the basis of his Parker vote. I 
learned the facts of life about politics in extraordinary fashion as a 

Despite the defeat of Parker, the Negro was still the object of 
derogation almost to the point of contempt on the part of politicians. 
Understandably basing their judgment on contacts with a handful 
of Negro politicians who made a living convincing white political 
bosses that these Negroes could “deliver the Negro vote,” a number 
of Republican leaders believed that they could buy the Negro 
vote. Money was poured lavishly into such purchases, with almost 
complete lack of success because Negro voters had been so stirred 
by the Parker fight that even a hitherto respected Negro minister 
who attempted to defend McCulloch was laughed out of Ohio. 

And then the mysterious forces resorted to attempts to impugn 
the characters of those who were opposing McCulloch, and to utilize 
money, liquor, and women to discredit them. Arriving in an Ohio 
city on a speaking tour, I had just reached the home at which I was 
to stay when the telephone rang and a seductive female voice in- 
vited me to come to her house to permit her to tell me the facts 
about a case in which the NAACP would be interested. When I 
informed her that I would talk with her only in the presence of 
witnesses and at the place where I was staying, the conversation 
abruptly ended. I resented most the obvious intimation that I would 
be so easily tricked. 

The Man in the Lily-White House 113 

In another city I was scheduled to speak at a mass meeting which 
was held in the largest auditorium available because of the feverish 
interest in the campaign. So dense was the crowd that I had to 
alight from my taxicab a block away from the auditorium to wedge 
my way through the crowd. I hung my topcoat and hat in an ante- 
room off the platform. After the meeting I found that the topcoat 
seemed somewhat heavier. In the right-hand pocket someone had 
placed a whisky bottle. As the platform party and I emerged from 
the anteroom into the auditorium, a number of persons fastened 
eagle eyes not on us, but on the right-hand pocket of my coat, and 
seemed somewhat disappointed to see nothing there. 

McCulloch of Ohio, Baird of New Jersey, and Allen of Kansas 
went down in defeat in 1930, followed in subsequent years by 
Shortridge of California, Patterson of Missouri, Watson of Indiana, 
Fess of Ohio, Reed of Pennsylvania, Hatfield of West Virginia, 
Walcott of Connecticut, and Hebert of Rhode Island, all of them, in 
large measure, because of the implacable and effective opposition 
of Negro voters. 

“Hastings of Delaware and one or two Senators from far north 
New England States escaped,” wryly commented The Crisis in 
December 1934. 

Out of these effective hard-hitting and uncompromising campaigns 
two changed political attitudes came. White politicians. Republican 
and Democratic, did not like the new situation, but were forced to 
recognize that the Negro voter no longer was gullible, purchasable, 
or complacent as before and would have to be recognized as an 
increasingly potent force in the American political scene. 

As for Negroes, they found new hope and dignity. Hitherto their 
efforts had been crowned at best with purely “moral” victories. Even 
the most philosophical among them, who recognized that such moral 
victories were part of the maturing of a minority group, had found 
difficulty in acceptance of defeat. But in the Parker fight victory 
had been achieved and a philosophy and aura of success had re- 
placed the purely protest values of preceding battles. One of the 
most gratifying developments of the Parker fight was the editorial 
reaction of the constantly growing Negro press which had backed 
the fight for principle. It was inevitable that jubilation should per- 

1 14 A Man Called White 

meate the editorial comment. However, there was sober realization 
that the rejection of the North Carolina jurist was but a stage in 
a long and difficult struggle. 

In Judge Parker’s behalf, I should like to add this postscript; 
Since his rejection, his decisions on both Negro and labor cases 
which have come before him have been above reproach in their 
strict adherence not only to the law but to the spirit of the Consti- 

In 1940 there came before the three justices of the Circuit Court 
of Appeals, of whom Judge Parker was one, the case of Melvin O. 
Alston against the School Board of Norfolk, Virginia. Mr. Alston, 
the plaintiff, on behalf of himself and other Negro teachers in the 
segregated school system of Norfolk, had brought action against 
the gross differential between salaries paid to white teachers and 
those paid to Negro teachers, who were nevertheless required to 
meet the same standards of education and experience. The case, which 
had been carried through the lower courts by NAACP attorneys 
Oliver W. Hill of Richmond, William H. Hastie, and Dr. L. A. Ran- 
som-chairman and member, respectively, of the national legal com- 
mittee— and Special Counsel Thurgood Marshall, had been decided 
against Alston in the Federal District Court. Appeal had been taken 
to the Circuit Court of Appeals. It had been urged upon me that 
I should be present in the courtroom when the appeal was argued. 
But because of the Senate fight over the confirmation of Judge 
Parker, it seemed to the NAACP attorneys and myself that my 
appearance in the court would have been distinctly bad taste. At the 
conclusion of the argument. Judge Parker congratulated William H. 
Hastie and Thvngood Marshall on the presentation of their case, 
doing so wholly on the basis of the facts. Shortly thereafter Judge 
Parker wrote and read for the Court a sweeping decision reversing 
the Federal District Court in behalf of Mr. Alston and other Negro 
teachers of Norfolk. That decision wiped out an annual differential 
of $129,000, between the salaries of white and Negro school teachers 
in Norfolk. 

And one final postscript. Hoover’s intransigeance in the Parker 
case permanently alienated Negroes. The Negro vote played a very 
considerable part in the overwhelming rejection of the Republican 

The Man in the Lily-White House 115 

candidate in favor of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1932 presidential 

At the end of his year’s leave of absence Jim’s doctors forbade him 
to return to the heavy program of work he had been carrying as 
secretary of the NAACP, and he resigned. His resignation was 
accepted with very great reluctance and sorrow by the board of 
directors. We arranged a dinner in his honor at the Pennsylvania 
Hotel which was attended by one of the most distinguished audi- 
ences I have ever seen in New York or anywhere else. Rosamond 
Johnson set the tone of gaiety and reminiscence for the evening 
by playing and singing some of the songs he and Jim had written 
for Marie Cahill, Lillian Held, Bert Williams, Sophie Tucker, and 
Ernest Hogan— ‘Under the Bamboo Tree,” “The Maiden With the 
Dreamy Eyes,” “Congo Love Song,” and “Lift Ev’ry Voice .and 
Sing.” Heywood Broun, Carl Van Doren, Dantes Bellegarde, Haitian 
Minister to the United States, Arthur Spingarn, and several others 
paid heartfelt tributes to Jim, all of them deserved and more, until 
Jim’s eyes were misty when he rose to speak. 

I was promoted from acting secretary to secretary, and wondered 
what troubles lay ahead. 

Opportunity was afforded us in 1931 to learn another phase of the 
international picture of the race question when Gladys and I visited 
Haiti, on a trip on which I combined a vacation with the task of 
carrying on an NAACP investigation. 

The investigation that Jim and Herbert Seligmann had made in 
1920 of the ruthlessness of the American occupation of that small 
Caribbean country had become an issue in the presidential campaign 
of that year because the occupation had been a constant source of 
criticism in Latin America of “Yanqui” imperialism. The NAACP 
cxpos6 had resulted in withdrawal of the United States Marines and 
in the softening of the treatment of the hapless country. But the 
American Financial Adviser, acting as much for the National City 
Bank of New York as for the United States government, continued 
to exercise dictatorial power over the finances of Haiti, a condition 
which continues in only slightly modified fashion to this day. Jim 

1 16 A Man Called White 

had been instrumental in forming the Union Patriotique d’Haiti to 
work for the restoration of independence, and the Haitian presi- 
dent at the time of our visit, M. Stenio Vincent, had served as presi- 
dent of the patriotic society, using our offices in New York as the 
headquarters on his visits to the United States. 

Gladys and I had hoped to slip away from the United States 
and arrive in Haiti without advance publicity. We were both tired 
from the long ordeal of the Parker and other Association struggles. 
We were anxious also to avoid having any official significance at- 
tached to our visit, so that we could wander about and see and talk 
to whomever we pleased without interference. Unfortunately for 
our plans, a newspaper reporter spied our luggage-laden taxicab 
crossing the Brooklyn Bridge to the pier. He followed us, blandly 
ignored our evasions, and, noting that the ship we boarded would 
stop at Port-au-Prince, correctly assumed that lovely capital to be 
our destination. 

No sooner had we reached our hotel— even before we had time 
to start unpacking— than a captain of Marines knocked at our door 
to tell us that he had been assigned to be our guide while in Haiti. 
A sleek and luxurious black limousine, belonging to the Bishop of 
Haiti, stood at the door awaiting us. From the crack of dawn to late 
in the evening when weariness drove us to bed, Captain Faustin 
Wirkus, the Marine who wrote “The White King of LaGonave,” 
was constantly with us. We were shown roads, schools, and other 
improvements which he attributed to the Americans. All our efforts 
to get in touch with our Haitian friends were adroitly blocked by 
Wirkus’s telling us that he had arranged a trip to some point of 
interest, usually a day’s drive distant, or luncheon with the Ameri- 
can Minister or some other United States official. 

Wirkus was so delightful a person that we were reluctant to 
offend him by telling him we wished to have at least a part of the 
time to ourselves. He eventually saved us this embarrassment by 
telling us frankly that, at the request of American governmental au- 
thorities, he had been assigned the duty of monopolizing our time 
to leave us as little as possible for talk with Haitians, and that we 
should not hesitate to tell him to go away when we did not wish 
to be bothered with him— a decision we had already made. 

The Man in the Lily-White House 117 

Gladys and I were the only Americans at the Hotel Bellevue on 
the Champs de Mars facing the presidential palace who were not 
connected with the occupation government. Some of the other 
guests constantly embarrassed us by their prejudice-ridden and 
rude statements about the Haitians. Because prices and wages were 
low, particularly personal service (maids could be employed for 
six dollars a month), most of the Americans were living at a luxury 
level infinitely higher than they had ever enjoyed in the States. 
Many of them came from the South and made no attempt whatever 
to conceal their antipathy for dark-skinned people. Apparently they 
believed that the difference of language kept the French-speaking 
Haitians from understanding what was being said, which was absurd, 
since many Haitians have learned to speak English or at least to 
understand it. Often we wondered why our country should be so 
foolish as to send bigoted American whites to the Caribbean and 
South America on the fantastic theory that only they “understood 

Our fellow guests at the Bellevue were startled one day when 
President Vincent’s official car arrived to take Gladys and me to 
the Palace for a formal dinner in our honor. We could hear the 
tongues clattering as we drove out of the courtyard. But at the 
dazzlingly white palace modeled after the Petit Trianon and set 
down in the midst of intoxicatingly colorful and fragrant tropical 
flowers, we soon forgot the gaucheries and prejudices we had left 
behind us at the hotel. President Vincent had assembled his cabinet 
and their wives and other distinguished Haitians. We have never 
before nor since heard the French language spoken with such preci- 
sion or beauty, not even among educated Parisians. Many of the 
Haitians had been educated at the Sorbonne. They and those who 
had not enjoyed such training were proud of the purity of the 
French they spoke and scrupulously but not ostentatiously kept free 
of idiomatic and colloquial usages. 

The conversation at first was somewhat stilted and formal as we 
talked of somber matters like crops and Haitian-American rela- 
tions. Suddenly, as though someone had applied a match to resinous 
pine knots, the talk came to life when one of the guests, to illus- 
trate a point, quoted an obscure sixteenth-century poet with whose 

ii8 A Man Called White 

work, much less his name, Gladys and I were totally unfamiliar. 
The quotation was instantly challenged by his opponent, who ani- 
matedly quoted another poet, equally unknown to us, who had said 
it better, the second speaker was certain. Mundane matters like trade 
balances and taxes were totally forgotten as Gladys and I frantically 
attempted with our inadequate French to follow the conversation 
which exploded throughout the huge and ornate dining room like 
firecrackers on the Fourth of July. 

On our way home we laughed as we tried to imagine a similar 
conversation springing up at the White House back home with the 
humorless Hoover and his sobersides cabinet. Probably, Gladys was 
sure, such an interest in culture instead of profits would promptly 
be considered a proof of Haitian “inferiority.” 

The scholarly Dr. Dantes Bellegarde, later the Haitian Ambas- 
sador to the United States, the brilliant Dr. Joseph Price-Mars, 
whose books have circulated widely in Europe as well as in Haiti, 
President Vincent, and other Haitians supplied answers to our 
numerous questions. The country was poor then and is still poor 
today. But we were ashamed that a nation which has contributed as 
much to the present power and wealth of the United States as has 
Haiti should be so shabbily treated by us. 

It was the revolt of the Haitian slaves under Toussaint I’Ouver- 
ture, Dessalines, and P6tion, and their crushing defeat of the pick of 
France’s troops under General LeClerc which smashed Napoleon’s 
dreams of a vast empire in the Americas and forced him to sell 
the Louisiana Territory to the United States during the presidency 
of Thomas Jefferson. Without the vast expanse of territory extend- 
ing from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada and embracing most of our 
great Middle West, the United States would have been restricted 
to the Atlantic seaboard. But we have never demonstrated any grati- 
tude to Haiti, and our history textbooks ignore this epic chapter in 
our national history. 

My deep concern with the American treatment of Haiti has been 
kept alive through the years, not only because of its great physical 
beauty and the charm of its people, but also by the continuation of 
our cavalier treatment of that country. A few years after our visit, 
Haiti guaranteed a loan of $5,500,000 to an American engineering 

The Man in the Lily-White House 119 

company for the building of roads, sanitation facilities, and other 
needed improvements. Most of the construction was wiped out by 
the first heavy rain, but Haiti has had to pay the bill with interest. 
She guaranteed another loan from the Export-Import Bank for agri- 
cultural development, which was taken over as a war emergency 
project to raise rubber from the cryptostegia plant—a project carried 
on wholly under the direction of American “experts,” and which 
was a total failure. One hundred thousand acres of the best farming 
land, from which its owners derived at prewar prices an income of 
$50,000,000, was expropriated for the futile experiment. Houses, 
fences, and vines and trees which had been years in the growing, 
were destroyed by bulldozers. The owners were given compensation 
averaging three dollars per acre for nearly three years’ use of the 
land. But when a delegation headed by Dr. Joseph Price-Mars came 
to the United States in 1947 to seek a loan from the Export-Import 
Bank to renegotiate and consolidate previous loans on which interest 
rates far higher than the current market were being paid, and to 
restore Haiti’s shattered economy, Washington gave the delegation 
a curt brushoff, announcing that no further loans were being made 
—even as astronomical sums were being loaned or given outright to 
England, Italy, and virtually every other country on earth, except 
black Haiti. 


The Civil War in Washington 

The Parker fight had demonstrated that Negroes when united could 
win important victories and enlist in their aid many fair-minded 
whites who both respected fighting ability and were aware that the 
struggle for democracy was an indivisible one in which their inter- 
ests were closely involved with those of Negroes. It had also made 
clear that so long as the overwhelming majority of both white and 
Negro voters in the South were denied the vote, the sole avenue of 
legislative remedy was the Congress. Many of us did not want to 
see centralization of too much power in Washington nor in the 
hands of any man or group. The prospect of an American Hitler 
or Mussolini was not one to be viewed with comfort. But at the 
same time it was crystal-clear that a dangerous form of dictatorship 
already existed, and had been in existence unnoticed for many years, 
in the growing power of the Southern oligarchy. That group of dic- 
tatorial legislators were more and more voting and working with 
the archconservatives of the Republican Party. We were forced 
therefore to choose the lesser of two evils— to work for federal 
action against lynching, disfranchisement, unequal apportionment 
of school and other tax moneys, and thereby concentrate more au- 
thority in Washington, or to let such dangerous practices continue 
and spread to the rest of the nation. 

Choice of the former course caused me to spend more and more 
time in Washington. What I saw and heard there has frequently 
been a severe tax on my faith in the democratic process. 

There was, for example, a letter I wrote Gladys late one night 
after an eighteen-hour day of frustration and double-dealing at the 

The Civil War in Washington 12 1 

hands of congressmen and senators who were trying to evade iron- 
clad promises which had been made to enact a federal anti-lynching 
bill. I wrote: “Democracy must be tough-fibered to survive practice 
of it by democrats.” 

My low spirits that evening had been induced by an experience 
which revealed the methods which some lobbyists were using suc- 
cessfully to obtain passage of favored bills. A high-salaried, assertive 
representative of a pressure group which was demanding huge sums 
of money from the public treasury— which they got— came over to 
where I was sitting in the reception room of the Senate chamber. 

“I have been watching you for a long time,” he began, “working 
around here trying to get your anti-lynching bill passed. You haven’t 
a ghost of a chance as long as you operate as you do. I don’t favor 
the bill, but I can’t help but admire the way you are working on 
a shoestring, appealing to the ‘better nature’ of politicians.” 

He bit off the end of a cigar and spat it out on the immaculate tile 

“The only way you can move most of these bastards is by getting 
something on them and threatening to expose it. I am going to help 
you pass your anti-lynching bill by letting you have what we have 
dug up!” 

A faint nausea came over me. 

“What sort of stuff have you got?” I asked. 

He asked me to meet him at his office after dinner that evening. 
There he opened a sturdy safe and took out file after file, each 
labeled with the name of a member of the United States Senate. 
Some were thin— these were the files of new or relatively new sena- 
tors. Others were fat and their contents filthy. Affidavits, photostats, 
reports of private detectives, newspaper clippings, court records, and 
unsavory revelations in letters which might well make a normal 
human being afraid to sit on the floor of the United States Senate. 

I asked to see folders on several senators whom I knew from 
many years of firsthand observation and acquaintance to be men 
of complete integrity. The dossiers of these men were even more 
revolting. Trumped-up charges by neurotic women, which even an 
amateur psychiatrist would have recognized as either fantastic or 
purchased, were included in the files. Of one of the episodes I had 

122 A Man Called White 

firsthand knowledge. I had been in the office of this senator one 
day several years before when an expensively dressed woman had 
been ushered in. She had a shade too much makeup on her face. 
Her clothes, though expensive and in reasonably good taste, verged 
on the flashy. She moved into the room exuding the aroma of per- 
fume which must have cost fifty dollars an ounce. It was obvious 
that she was annoyed at the presence of a third person, so I went 
into another room. When she had gone, my friend the senator 
told me that his visitor had invited him to her “cozy little apartment 
when the cares of state became so burdensome that he needed re- 
laxation.” I would make any wager, such is my confidence in the 
character and discretion of that particular senator, that he never 
accepted the invitation nor of his own choice saw the woman again. 
He was far too experienced in the ways of Washington and the 
world to miss seeing that the woman had been employed to com- 
promise him. But in the dossier was an account of the visit of the 
woman, with highly suggestive and derogatory implications against 
the senator. 

After I had examined a half dozen or so of the “records” I felt 
an overwhelming urge to wash my hands with carbolic acid soap 
to rid them of the filth they had touched. I told the lobbyist that 
I did not care to take advantage of his offer. He looked at me as 
though I were mentally deranged. 

“It won’t cost you a penny— I am giving it to you,” he told me. 
“You’d be a fool not to use it. You will never get your bill through 
otherwise.” I told him that we were fighting for a principle and 
that we would under no circumstance use unprincipled methods to 
achieve passage of the bill. To this day he looks at me whenever I 
encounter him as though he is now convinced that Negroes have 
no brains. 

Year after year and session after session of Congress we have 
fought with meager resources and often in the face of indifference, 
chicanery, and even sometimes contempt for our efforts by mem- 
bers of the Congress. Time and again we have succeeded in achiev- 
ing passage of the anti-lynching bills in the House only to see them 
die at the hands of fiUbusterers in the Senate. But we also saw signs 

The Civil War in Washington 123 

that our efforts, fruitless as far as legislation was concerned, were 
not without effect. The increasing independence of Negro voters 
played a considerable part in achieving this change. Exposure by 
debate on the floor of the Senate and the House of Representatives 
of the sadism of lynching and the not infrequent innocence of the 
victims steadily increased public sentiment against lynching. 

I shall never forget a dramatic experience in 1937 as Southern 
congressmen like Rankin of Mississippi and Hatton W. Sumners of 
Texas bombastically orated about “states’ rights” and declared that 
the South itself would stop lynching if only it were let alone. As the 
Civil War was being fought again on the floor of the House, I was 
summoned hastily from my seat in the gallery. A friendly news- 
paperman had snatched from the news ticker an Associated Press 
dispatch telling of the blowtorch lynching of two Negroes at Duck 
Hill, Mississippi. It was one of the most unbelievable barbarities in 
human history. I sent the clipping in to Congressman Joseph A. 
Gavagan of New York, who was leading the fight for the anti- 
lynching bill. The startling dispatch was read quietly but with ter- 
ribly dramatic impact. One would have thought that such a revelation 
would have silenced, at least temporarily, the congressional de- 
fenders of lynching. It did not. After the gasp of horror which 
swept the House had subsided, the Southern orators resumed their 
onslaught as though nothing had happened. 

But not all of the Southern congressmen, even those who fought 
anti-lynching legislation, were as convinced that federal legislation 
was either unnecessary or unconstitutional as their speeches pro- 
claimed. One day Congressman Hatton W. Sumners, an able lawyer 
and eloquent orator who had achieved chairmanship of the House 
Judiciary Committee by the seniority rule, received an ovation after 
a long denunciation of the anti-lynching bill. Upon encountering me 
in the corridor of the Capitol a few minutes later he jubilantly de- 
manded, flushed with his triumph: “How do the chances for your 
anti-lynching bill look now?” I assured him, not without some mis- 
givings, that he had changed not a single vote. 

He hastily changed the conversation by asking if there had been 
any arrests or indictments of the Mississippi blowtorch lynchers. 

124 A Man Called White 

I told him that I was sure he knew as well as I that there had been 
no arrests, nor would there be any as long as the present regime 
based on disfranchisement and mob violence continued to control 
Mississippi. Half to himself and half to me he remarked, “Maybe 
you are right— maybe we will have to have an anti-lynching bill 

Jimcrow on a Freight Car 

In March of 1931 I received early one morning on arrival at the 
office a long-distance telephone call from Dr. P. H. Stephens, a 
practicing physician in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and president of the 
NAACP branch in that city. That was the first news we received of 
a tragedy which was to become known throughout the world as 
the Scottsboro Case. Nine whites had clambered aboard a freight 
train at Chattanooga about noon on a day late in March to hobo 
their way home to Huntsville, Alabama. To escape being seen by 
railroad detectives, the nine huddled in a gondola— a freight car with 
sides but no top— which was filled to two thirds of its capacity with 
crushed rock. 

When the train reached Stevenson, Alabama, a group of Negroes, 
numbering between twenty and thirty, climbed aboard. One of 
the white men, thoroughly impregnated with jimerowism, even on 
freight cars, angrily shouted, “You niggers get out of here!” Some 
of the whites later alleged that a fight ensued and the Negroes by 
their superior number had overpowered seven of the nine white men 
and thrown them from the train. However, one of the men later 
admitted that seven of them had hastily quit the train. The man who 
told this story revealed that as he was trying to climb down he fell 
between two cars and would have been killed had not two of the 
Negroes caught him in time and pulled him back safely to the car. 
The white men who quit the train sped to a telephone to call the 
sheriff at Paint Rock, the next town through which the train would 
pass, and asked that he arrest the Negroes. The sheriff obliged, 
arresting nine Negroes and three whites found on the train. 


126 A Mm Called White 

Examination revealed that two of the three white “men” were 
women; tough, hard-boiled Victoria Price, a cottonmill worker 
and part-time prostitute, and a younger mill worker, also free with 
her favors for a price. Ruby Bates. 

News of the discovery of the sex of two of the whites instan- 
taneously put a new and more sinister interpretation on what ordi- 
narily would have been an interracial clash of no uniqueness. The 
two women were grilled by the sheriff and his deputies for hours 
as to whether or not sex offenses had been committed on them by 
the Negroes. In their early testimony both girls said that the 
Negroes had made no suggestions of intimacy with them. 

News of the episode spread throughout the community, and a 
potential mob gathered around the jail, making threats of a whole- 
sale lynching. When the two white women continued to maintain 
that there had been no sexual intercourse aboard the train, two local 
white physicians were summoned to examine them, Doctors Lynch 
and Bridges. The doctors testified that they had found the girls in 
“normal condition, mentally and physically.” The only physical 
injury found was slight abrasion on the buttocks of one of the girls, 
which, the doctors testified, might have been caused by sitting on 
crushed gravel in a gondola freight car for fifty miles. Further 
examination disclosed that both girls had had recent sexual inter- 
course but that it had occurred twelve or more hours previously. 
Both girls admitted that they had had intercourse with white men 
in the freight yards at Chattanooga the night before. There was no 
evidence of criminal assault, according to the doctors. 

Outside the jail the mob grew in size and vociferousness, as it 
worked itself up to a lynching pitch. Each telling of the story added 
new details to the unbelievable sexual atrocities which had been 
perpetrated upon the two white girls. And their reputations for 
unblemished purity grew steadily. Finally Victoria Price, reveling 
in the unaccustomed spotlight playing upon her, changed her story. 
She alleged that in the time it took the train to travel the thirty-eight 
miles from Stevenson to Paint Rock she and Ruby Bates had each 
been assaulted six times by the Negroes, each of whom, with extraor- 
dinary agility, had held a long, sharp knife at the girls’ throats during 
the process. By nightfall the mob had grown to such size and 

Jimcrow on a Freight Car 127 

ferocity, especially after news of Victoria Price’s “confession,” that 
the nine terrified Negro boys, one of them only thirteen years of 
age, were speedily taken from the jail by the back door and hurried 
to the stronger jail at Gadsden. 

Dr. Stephens told me of the efforts of Chattanooga Negroes, faced 
with the emergency, to provide legal defense for the accused 
Negroes. The local branch of the NAACP and the colored inter- 
denominational ministerial alliance had hastily raised a hundred 
dollars to employ a lawyer. A committee had been appointed which 
had retained Stephen R. Roddy, the only white lawyer in Chatta- 
nooga who, as far as they knew, dared to face the hostile atmosphere 
of the impending trial at Scottsboro. Dr. Stephens implored the 
national office to give assistance and asked that a national officer 
be sent to Tennessee at once. I was chosen to go. 

Seldom have I seen an atmosphere so charged with racial hatred 
and the lynching spirit. We knew that the conviction in the lower 
court of the nine Negro boys was inevitable in such an atmosphere. 
The most we could hope to accomplish would be inclusion in the 
record of as much evidence of the innocence of the defendants as 
was possible, and the notation of violations by the Court of the 
constitutional rights of the defendants’ due process protection as the 
basis of appeal from the inevitable guilty verdict. 

Our worst fears were confirmed. A few days after the arrest the 
defendants were returned to Scottsboro, indicted on charges of 
rape, and in the minimum time allowed under the law were placed 
on trial. National Guardsmen with drawn bayonets, tear-gas bombs, 
and machine guns made the antiquated Jackson County courthouse 
appear like a fortified position in an advanced battle zone. More 
than ten thousand whites, many of them making no effort to conceal 
weapons, jammed the courthouse grounds and the streets of the 
sleepy little town of fifteen hundred population. 

As the defendants were penniless, Judge A. J. Hawkins assigned 
the entire Jackson County bar, consisting of seven lawyers, to the 
defense. Six of them hastily requested the court to be excused and 
their requests were granted, Only one lawyer dared face the diffi* 
cult case— elderly Milo Moody. At this point Stephen Roddy asked 
the court for permission to associate himself with Mr. Moody, An 

128 A Man Called White 

ominous munnur swept the courtroom at the injection of a “foreign” 
lawyer into the case, Mr. Roddy’s foreignness consisting of his 
coming from just across the state line, not more than a hundred 
miles away. After some discussion permission was granted. 

Victoria Price was put on the stand. Jauntily she told in great 
detail, obviously loving every minute of the rapt attention accorded 
her, of the six mythical criminal assaults she had undergone. Ruby 
Bates followed her on the stand. Less of an extrovert and obviously 
more reluctant to tell the lies she had been coached to tell, she 
however corroborated sufficiently the lurid recital of the flamboyant 
Victoria Price to insure the sentencing to death of eight of the 
defendants and to life imprisonment of the ninth. The prosecutor 
asked only for life imprisonment for him because he had “cele- 
brated” his fourteenth birthday in jail as he awaited trial. 

It is certain that convictions were inevitable in that atmosphere. 
But if there had been any slightest chance of a fair trial, that chance 
went glimmering when Judge Hawkins revealed that he had re- 
ceived a telegram from a Communist organization in New York 
Qty, the International Labor Defense, asserting that he as presiding 
judge would be held personally responsible unless the nine defend- 
dants were immediately released. 

The condemned defendants were spirited to the Kilby State 
Prison near Montgomery to await execution. Simultaneously the 
NAACP appealed the convictions to the Alabama State Supreme 
Court. The trial had so flagrantly violated virtually every principle 
of law that we were confident the Alabama State Supreme Court 
would reverse the Jackson County court’s verdict; and, if it did not 
do so, the United States Supreme Court would assuredly do so on 
the basis of the decision in the Phillips County, Arkansas, riot cases 
in which it had held that a mob-dominated trial violated due process 
and a conviction in such circumstances must be set aside and a 
new trial ordered. 

We appealed to Clarence Darrow, who promptly agreed to act 
as chief counsel in the appeal and in any subsequent trials. Arthur 
Garfield Hays of New York joined him as associate counsel. But it 
was imperative also that the very best Alabama counsel obtainable 
be retained. I was sent to Alabama and retained Roderick Beddow 

Jimcrow on a Freight Car 129 

of the firm of Fort, Beddow, and Ray of Birmingham, reputed to 
be the ablest trial lawyer of the state. Mr. Darrow and Mr. Hays 
joined me in Birmingham for a conference with Mr. Beddow and 
his associate to prepare the appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court. 

Our task was enormous. In addition to the usual difficulties in- 
volved in defense of Negroes charged with rape in the South, wc 
had to cope with the multiplied antagonism caused by the inept 
tactics of the Communist ILD. The governor, the warden of Kilby 
Prison, and virtually every other state official even remotely con- 
nected with the case were being bombarded with telegrams from 
Northern cities and later with cablegrams from other parts of the 
world “demanding” immediate release of the nine Scottsboro boys. 
Most of the telegrams declared that the official addressed would be 
“held personally accountable” if the boys were not released. Along 
with this mass pressure campaign, Roddy had been approached by 
representatives of the International Labor Defense with the propo- 
sition that he renounce his employment by the NAACP and switch 
to the International Labor Defense. 

When Roddy refused, he immediately became the target of abuse. 
He was accused in the Daily Worker of being a member of the 
Ku Klux Klan. He was charged with having conspired with the 
prosecutor to electrocute the defendants. It was alleged that he 
had been the inmate of an insane asylum. Later a story was published 
that Roddy had gone violently insane and had attempted to kill his 
wife with an ax and had been placed by his father in an insane 

On the day after Mr. Darrow and Mr. Hays arrived in Birming- 
ham, a telegram signed by all nine of the defendants was received 
by Mr. Darrow demanding that he withdraw from the NAACP and 
accept employment from the International Labor Defense. Let Mr. 
Darrow tell the story of what happened. He wrote in The Crisis 
of March 1932 that, on receipt of the telegram— 

We immediately got in touch with the representatives of the I.L.D. 
and asked them to come to Birmingham for a consultation. When they 
arrived we at once told them that we could not go into a contest to 
procure clients. We then stated to them, orally and in writing, that we 
were willing to go into the case with the I.L.D. attorneys provided that 

130 A Man Called White 

each organization was a party to the record, and asked that all lawyers 
appear for the defendants alone. 

After waiting for more than a day, while the agents and attorneys for 
the I.L.D. telephoned to New York and Chattanooga, they announced 
that we must withdraw from any connection with the N.A.A.C.P. and 
come in with them under the I.L.D. This, of course, we refused to do. . . . 

Neither Mr. Hays nor I could possibly forsake the N.A.A.C.P. whose 
long and devoted services to the colored people are well-known in every 
state in the Union. No more could we give out that we were representing 
the I.L.D. 1 am sure that we could have done nothing else than take this 
stand. . . . 

William Pickens, at the time field secretary of the NAACP, went 
to Alabama and with Mr. Beddow interviewed the defendants and 
their parents and guardians, and was assured by the boys that they 
wished the NAACP to defend them. But some of the parents had 
been convinced that the Communists and no one else could save the 
lives of the boys. A mother of one of the defendants had become 
so convinced of this that she was reported to have expressed vigor- 
ously the opinion that “the NAACP is trying to get my boy electro- 

The defendants and their parents and guardians together presented 
one of the most damning indications of Southern race prejudice I 
have ever seen— all of them had been given little education and 
had been ground by poverty and bigotry all their lives. It was an 
exciting new experience for them to be addressed as “Mister” or 
“Missus” and to be treated by white people as human beings on a 
plane of equality which they had never known before from the 
“good, white, hundred per cent Americans” of their native South. 

When, by various means, the defendants and their parents and 
guardians became convinced that the ILD was the organization 
which they wished to defend them, there was no alternative left 
except for the NAACP to withdraw from the case, making public 
its reasons for so doing, with an itemized accounting of moneys 
raised and expended in the case. 

In control of the case, the Communists proceeded to publicize and 
agitate it in every part of the world. Public meetings of the NAACP 
were particularly the target of the campaign. A favorite device was 
to announce in such a meeting that one of the Scottsboro mothers 

J inter <no on a Freight Car 131 

was present and demanded the right to speak. If permission was 
granted, a Communist would make a lengthy introduction expound- 
ing the merits of communism. If permission were denied, at a pre- 
arranged signal Communists in the audience or their sympathizers 
would join in a shout demanding that the mother be heard. There 
were only five living “mothers” of the nine defendants, but many 
more than five “mothers” were produced in various parts of the 
country at public gatherings. In one instance a colored woman 
presented as a Scottsboro mother had lived for more than twenty 
years in the Northern city in which she spoke. All this apparently 
was based upon strategy at that time being followed by Communists 
throughout the world, namely, to attempt to organize with greatest 
vigor among the most exploited and oppressed group in each “capi- 
talist” country as the most fertile soil for revolutionary propaganda. 
It will be remembered that the Scottsboro case came two years after 
the stock market collapse of 1929 and as America moved into the 
most serious economic depression it had ever known. 

The story of all the appeals to the supreme court of Alabama and 
the United States Supreme Court is too long and dreary to tell here. 
But time and again various lawyers, including Samuel S. Leibowitz, 
Joseph R. Brodsky, Walter H. Poliak, Osmond K. Fraenkel, George 
W. Chamlee of Chattanooga, and others appeared in the case. Four 
years later, in 1935, Ruby Bates repudiated her previous testimony 
and declared that neither she nor Victoria Price had been raped or 
otherwise molested in any fashion. But Victoria Price continued to 
stick to her lurid story despite analysis and repudiation of her every 
statement in an opinion by Judge James E. Horton of the Alabama 
Circuit Court. Eventually it became clear, even to the ILD, that the 
combination of prejudices against the defendants, because they were 
Negroes charged with the rape of white women and because of the 
adamant resistance of Alabama to the Communist campaign, was so 
great that no further progress could be made nor hope maintained 
of eventual freedom for the defendants. 

I wrote an article for Harper's, “The Negro and the Communists,” 
telling the story of the Scottsboro case, which opened the eyes of a 
great many people, according to the letters I received. I sought to 
be scrupulously fair and to understate instead of emphasizing the 

132 A Man Ctdled White 

drama and political chicanery of the case. As I had expected, publi- 
cation of the article brought down upon me abuse from both the 
extreme right and the extreme left of political and economic think- 
ing. The former element, particularly in the South, bitterly resented 
my emphasizing that miscarriages of justice of this character were 
more effective propaganda for conununism than all the revolution- 
ary efforts the Communists could possibly produce. The Com- 
munists themselves, of course, did not like the exposure of their 
methods and tactics. But many of die great and growing number 
of honest and troubled Americans who were genuinely concerned 
about the fissures in the democratic structure welcomed the revela- 
tion of the truth. 

Samuel Leibowitz invited me one day to attend a conference in his 
office. Mr. Leibowitz informed me that he could no longer work 
with the Communists, that the nine defendants would do whatever 
he wished them to do, and that if I would promise him the support 
of the NAACP, he would advise the nine boys to request in writing 
that the NAACP take over their case. I refused to be a party to such 
an arrangement. 

Shortly afterward another request was made to the NAACP to 
reenter the case. We were reluctant to undertake again the responsi- 
bility involved, particularly because by that time the outlook ap- 
peared even more hopeless than it had in 1931. But there was no 
choice. If the boys were allowed to die without our having made 
every effort to save them, we would have felt that we ourselves had 
been passive allies of the exponents of race prejudice. Victory for 
the Alabama bigots would have served as a green light to other 
mobs to do as they wished with Negroes, and the Communists 
would have proclumed throughout the world that the nine boys 
were the victims of “capitalist” justice. 

It was imperative that organizations representing various races, 
creeds, and economic circumstances be brought into a coalition for 
the defense. It was also imperative that this new Scottsboro Defense 
Committee should be officered by men of such probity that neither 
their motives nor political beliefs could be brought into question. 
Dr. Allan Knight Palmers, pastor of the Broadway Tabernacle in 
New York Qty, was persuaded to accept the chairmanship despite 

Jbncrow on a Freight Car 133 

a load of work which was already so heavy that it would have 
broken the body and spirit of a lesser man. I spent an afternoon 
with Dr. Chalmers in his study pointing out all the difEculties. I 
shall never forget that the argument which eventually persuaded 
him to accept the thankless and difficult task was one to the effect 
that the outlook for success was so bleak that I would not for a 
moment blame him if he refused to serve. For eleven years now 
Dr. Chalmers has worked skillfuUy. To him more than to any other 
individual goes the credit for the freeing of seven of the nine de- 
fendants to date. Even as this is written Dr. Chalmers is continuing 
his efforts to free the two defendants who remain in jail. 

With Dr. Chalmers on the Scottsboro Defense Committee were 
appointed Colonel William Jay Schieffelin, president of the Schief- 
felin Pharmaceutical Company of New York and Trustee of Tuske- 
gee Institute, who served as treasurer, and Bishop Scarlett of St. 
Louis, Dean Elbert Russell of Durham, North Carolina, and the 
late James Weldon Johnson, then of Fisk University, who served as 

But the Communists did not lose interest when we again took 
over the case. Over and over again, in world-wide publicity, they 
have called attention to the miserable failure of the legal processes 
and the pall of prejudice which hangs eternally over a case of this 
character as evidences of “capitalist society decadence.” 

In the intervening years it had become increasingly clear that 
the tragedy of a Scottsboro lies, not only in the bitterly cruel 
injustice which it works upon its immediate victims, but also, and 
perhaps even more, in the cynical use of human misery by Com- 
munists in propagandizing for communism, and in the complacency 
with which a democratic government views the basic evils from 
which such a case arises. A majority of Americans sdll ignore, even 
after World War Two has demonstrated that the problem of race 
is a world-wide one, the plain implications in similar tragedies. 


Death of a Citizen 

Father retired from the post office in 1921 after forty-three years 
of delivering and collecting mail. They gave him a testimonial ban- 
quet at the colored YMCA and presented him with a gold watch as 
token of his faithfulness as a public servant and a citizen. I always 
regretted I could not be present at the banquet, although it would 
have been painful to watch him squirm as the usual lavish and tender 
exaggerations of testimonials were heaped upon his shy person. 

But I would have liked saying a few things myself— none of them 
exaggerated— of his pride, for example, in having been tardy at work 
only once in forty-ffiree years and that during the blizzard of 
1888 which struck even as far south as Atlanta. In spite of the diffi- 
culties that morning. Father had fought his way in the early morning 
hours through the snowdrifts and had been only twelve minutes 
late when he reported at 5:42 a.m. He was one of only two or three 
postal employees who showed up for work at all that day. I would 
have liked paying tribute to him and mother for performance of a 
financial miracle in establishing a comfortable home which was tax 
and mortgage free, in giving college educations to seven children, 
and in helping others on a salary which never exceeded a hundred and 
fifty dollars a month. 

Father had worked too long and too hard to be content with 
idleness. Nor could he afford it, so meager was the government 
pension even when supplemented by rent money from the old house 
on the back of the lot. Mornings he devoted to searching the public 
market for bargains in food. Afternoons he gave to puttering 
around the place, patching and mending. Sundays were, of course, 


Death of a Citizen 135 

given to church and the quiet regimen of a Sabbath as rigid as any 
Puritan’s in abstention from worldly deeds and thoughts. Tuesdays 
he spent with my sister Helen, playing with the grandchildren. 
Thursdays were devoted to Olive and her family. 

On one of these Thursdays in 1931 Father was returning home 
just before dusk, carrying a lemon meringue pie which Olive had 
made for Madeline. He stopped, as was his cautious custom, at the 
comer of Houston Street and Piedmont Avenue to look through his 
bifocals for traffic and to wait for the light to change. When the 
crosstown light turned, he stepped from the curb just in time to be 
struck by an automobile speeding recklessly to beat the light. The 
driver of the car was a doctor at the Henry W. Grady City Hos- 
pital. He helped lift Father into the automobile and sped him to the 
Grady Hospital. 

Grady Hospital is on Butler Street. On one side are modem, sani- 
tary, beautifully equipped buildings. This side is for whites. Across 
the street is the Negro building. For many years it had been occu- 
pied by the Atlanta College of Physicians and Surgeons for the 
education and training of white doctors. Eventually deterioration 
from age had made the place so antiquated that more modern 
quarters were built elsewhere for the medical school. The old 
buildings were considered good enough for the Negro wards of 
the Municipal Hospital. 

Because of his light-colored skin. Father’s unconscious body was 
taken to the white side of the street, where the best doctors in the 
hospital worked feverishly to save his life. 

Father had no identification papers on him, but neighbors who 
had seen the accident telephoned my brother-in-law, who rushed to 
the hospital. Inquiry at the colored ward revealed no trace of Father. 
Wise in the ways of the South, my brother-in-law went across the 
street and asked for the injured man. 

“Do you know who this man is?” he was asked. 

“He is my father-in-law,” my brother-in-law, whose skin is brown, 

“Have we put a nigger in the white ward?” they asked, horrified. 

Father was snatched from the examination table lest he contami- 

136 A Man Called White 

nate the “white” air, and taken hurriedly across the street in a 

driving downpour of rain to the “Negro” ward. 

He had regained consciousness when I reached Atlanta a few 
hours later. 

“I feel like a watermelon that has been dropped from a wagon- 
all squashed up inside,” he told me. 

Overworked Negro nurses and orderlies scrubbed and swept in- 
cessantly, but with dismal failure, to keep the closely packed wards 
reasonably clean. The obsolescent building and facilities had too 
great a head start. Dinginess, misery, and poverty pressed so hard 
on one from every side that even a well person could not avoid 
feeling a little sick in those surroundings. Father’s injuries were 
such that no hope was held out for his recovery. Since the end 
might come at any time, my brother and I took turns around the 
clock to be with him. We became as philosophical about the sordid 
surroundings as we could. There were numerous private hospitals 
in Atlanta maintained by churches, Protestant and Catholic, but they 
were all for whites. Ninety thousand Negroes needing hospitaliza- 
tion had only a single choice— either Grady Hospital or a private 
sanitarium of about a dozen beds which had little modem equip- 

The vigil during the day was not too trying because there were 
diversions to keep one’s mind from the inadequacy and sordidness 
of the hospital. But night was unmitigated horror as Father’s life 
slowly ebbed away. With the dimming of the light and the cessation 
of movement, the quiet was broken only by the slight stir when 
a new patient was brought in or when one of those already there' 
died or called out for the nurse. Huge cockroaches came out of 
hiding places and scampered about the wards and corridors. The 
pattern of nocturnal nausea they made was occasionally varied by 
the appearance of a rat. George and I instinctively kept our feet off 
the floor on the rungs of the chair to avoid the vermin. 

One human being helped to relieve the agony and horror of the 
vigil as Father, to the amazement of the doctors, fought desperately 
for his life despite his advanced age and the gravity of his injuries. 
That human being was a young white intern who came from Scotts- 
boro, Alabama, where a diort time before dbe famous Scott^oro 

Death of a Citizen 137 

case had originated. It was his plan to go to China as a medical 
missionary when he had completed his internship. After a working 
day of twelve hours and despite the jeers of his fellow interns for 
associating with “niggers,” this young doctor sat night after night 
with George and me talking softly in the darkened corridor. We 
talked of many things— of war, peace, and human nature, and of his 
dreams of service to the physical needs of the Chinese. But, as is in- 
variably true in the South, the Negro question colored all that we 

Once George asked him gently, “Why do you go to China to do 
missionary work? Don’t you think there is great need for it in your 
home town of Scottsboro?” 

The young doctor hung his head and remained silent for a full 
minute before replying, “Yes. I know. But it will be easier in 

Sixteen days and nights passed. The seventeenth was a Sunday. 
When daybreak came I went to Father’s bedside. The ward was 
even more crowded because of the usual Saturday night cuttings 
and shootings. In the bed next to Father a Negro who had been 
shot by a policeman was dying. Only enough strength was left to 
Father to open his eyes and to ask feebly if we had been there all 
night. When we told him we had, he chided us, still completely 
forgetful of himself, saying, “You shouldn’t have done that. You 
should have been home getting your rest.” 

Around nightfall they put the grim screen around his bed. Father 
had lapsed into a coma from which even the strength bom of abste- 
mious living and the determination to live could not rouse him. As 
we stood by his bed the ward filled suddenly with raucous sounds. 
A band of white men and women screeched hymns about Jesus’s 
love and God, the Father of us all. I suppose I should have been 
more tolerant and perhaps even grateful that they had deigned to 
cross the color line to sing for black Americans as well as white ones. 
But the strain and bitterness were too great. I suspect my own 
voice was as harsh as theirs and I told them to go away and at least 
let my father die in peace. 

And then Father died. 

For seventy years he had in his quiet way done all he could to 

138 A Man Called White 

make Adanta a more decent and Christian place. If he ever broke 

even the most minor law of man or God, we never knew of it. He 

had faithfully paid city, county, state, real estate, and every other 

kind of tax on the days such taxes were due, if not before the due 

date. He had, in the truest sense of the word, been always a good 


But when death had come, he had been ushered out of life in the 
meanest circumstances an implacable color line had decreed for 
all Negroes, whatever their character or circumstances might be. 


Ada Sipuel and Others 
Similarly Situated^ ^ 

1932 marked the emergence of the Negro voter as a force which 
no political party could longer ignore or flout. We drafted a ques- 
tionnaire which was sent to Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roose- 
velt, asking for a “plain and unequivocal declaration on the subject 
of race relations,” which, though unanswered by either candidate, 
served an important purpose in establishing a yardstick by which 
Negro voters could measure the records of both candidates. We did 
not want to create a “Negro bloc,” and I was particularly opposed 
to such a development. 

There are Negro capitalists and Negro paupers; Negro Republi- 
cans, Democrats, Socialists, and Communists; there are Negro inter- 
nationalists and Negro chauvinists. I have always strongly advocated 
that in a democracy Negroes should function as members of a demo- 
cratic society and not as a segregated bloc. But circumstances over 
which we had no control decreed otherwise, and this condition 
continues to exist, although fortunately to a lesser degree than in 
the thirties. As long as lynching continues, and especially when 
Negroes are the chief victims of that practice, a senator’s or con- 
gressman’s attitude toward race relations, and his vote on such 
legislation as federal anti-lynching bills, anti-poll tax bills, fair em- 
ployment practices, enfranchisement, etc., are inevitably important 
determinants of the attitude of Negro voters toward him. 

In the questionnaire sent to Hoover and Roosevelt we bluntly 
asked for statements of their position on eleven of these issues, which 


140 A Man Called White 

included disfranchisement, discrimination in the civil service, ap- 
pointment of Negroes based on ability, racial segregation in Wash- 
ington, abolition of segregation in the armed forces, positive action 
to eliminate discrimination in the use of federal funds for educational 
purposes, federal support of higher education for Negroes— particu- 
larly in the professions; abolition of color discrimination on relief 
and public works projects, restoration of self-government and inde- 
pendence to Liberia and Haiti, and general establishment of the full 
citizenship rights of Negroes. 

It was gratifying to find during these trying days that the position 
we took was slowly and steadily adding to the number of white 
adherents of the principles we espoused. The annual conferences of 
the NAACP, usually held during the last week in June, were ad- 
dressed by more distinguished Americans each year, which marked 
a decided change in attitude from the early days of the Association 
when only a handful of supercourageous white Americans— like 
Mary White Ovington, Moorfield Storey, Joel and Arthur Spin- 
gam, Charles Edward Russell, Oswald Garrison Villard, and Jane 
Addams— dared speak out boldly for unqualified freedom for Negro 

Toward the mid-thirties we even found federal and state officials 
willing to take such a stand, although they risked political oblitera- 
tion by doing so. 

A sensational example of this occurred during the hearings before 
the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Costigan-Wagner Anti- 
Lynching Bill, when W. Preston Lane, Attorney General of Mary- 
land, appeared before the committee to testify for federal legislation 
and to relate the circumstances of the burning alive of George Arm- 
wood, a Negro, at Princess Anne, Maryland, on October i8, 1933. 
No state official within my experience ever attempted so sincerely 
to bring lynchers to justice as did Mr. Lane in this case. When he 
went to the scene of the lynching, a mob attempted to lynch him 
also, and was prevented from doing so only by state troopers. 
Threats were made to kill Governor Ritchie, and editors and re- 
porters of the Baltimore Sun, which exposed and excoriated the 
lynchers. An interesting evidence of the growth of decent public 
opinion, as a result of relentless campaigning against lynch^, is 

Ada Sipuel and Others **Similarly Situated^^ 141 

probably to be seen in the fact that, although he was bitterly de- 
nounced and threatened with political extermination at the time, 
Mr. Lane was later elected governor of the State of Maryland. 

The dismal decade of the thirties grew more and more dismal. I 
found myself with less and less time for the theater, baseball, parties, 
writing, or any of the other diversions which had formerly lightened 
the load of problems and hard work. 

We saw the percentage of Negroes on relief rolls mounting far 
beyond their proportion in the national population; their meager 
savings accumulated during the flush days dwindled and disappeared. 
Wherever I went I found a deepening despair despite the aid unem- 
ployed Negroes received from federal and state governments and 
through agencies like FERA, WPA, and PWA. Negroes became 
increasingly morose as they repeatedly saw the few jobs which were 
available during the economic crisis given to others, even when 
Negro applicants were more experienced or better prepared. We 
knew that trouble was ahead and worked night and day to amelio- 
rate conditions as far as was possible and to do such long-range plan- 
ning as our slender resources permitted. 

The picture was not all dark, however. A grant of one hundred 
thousand dollars— which unfortunately dropped to a third of that 
amount because of shrinkage of assets due to the stock market crash 
—was made to the Association by the American Fund for Public 

This was made possible by the generosity of an idealistic young 
American by the name of Charles Garland, who had inherited an 
estate in excess of one million dollars from his father. Mr. Garland 
believed both before and after he received his inheritance that no 
man had the right to enjoy and spend money unless he himself had 
earned it. He had turned over a small amount of his bequest to his 
divorced wife for the support of herself and their child, and the 
balance was used to establish the American Fund for Public Service. 
Mr. Garland’s interest in the NAACP had been aroused and stimu- 
lated by James Weldon Johnson. At Mr. Garland’s request, Mr. 
Johnson had become a member of the American Fund Board, and— 
with characteristic impartiality— had suggested contributions not 
only to the NAACP but also to other organizations working in the 

142 A Mm Called White 

field of race relations. Among these were the National Urban 
League and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, which was 
then struggling— under the able and unselfish leadership of A. Philip 
Randolph— to establish itself to battle for decent wages and working 
conditions from the multimillionaire Pullman Company. 

The American Fund grant permitted a change in the approach to 
the Negro’s handicaps— especially in the field of law— which we had 
long desired but had been prevented from undertaking by poverty. 
From its inception the Association had followed a policy, to which 
it still adheres, of applying two tests to every appeal for legal aid 
made to it. We examine each case to determine, first, whether it is a 
case in which injustice has been done or is threatened because of 
race and color, and, second, whether entrance of the Association 
will establish a precedent which will affect the basic citizenship 
rights of Negroes and other Americans. 

Limited resources and the constant succession of cases which the 
Association had to handle on an emergency basis had confined us 
to action on crises as they arose. The grant from the Garland Fund 
permitted us to alter our entire method of operation. First, it enabled 
us to make the most complete and authoritative study of the legal 
status of the Negro which had ever been conceived or executed. 
We were fortunate in being able to employ Nathan R. Margold, 
who had made an extraordinary record as an assistant United States 
attorney in New York and as legal adviser on Indian Affairs in the 
Institute for Government Research. 

Mr. Margold did a brilliant job of research, covering all known 
court decisions on unequal apportionment of school funds, property 
holders’ covenants, disfranchisement, civil liberties defense (includ- 
ing lynching), job discrimination, jimcrow travel, and denial of 
other citizenship rights. 

On the basis of Margold’s study we mapped out a broad frontal 
attack on the basic causes of discrimination instead of waiting to 
handle the manifestations. Charles H. Houston of Washington was 
added to our staff as the first full-time lawyer to head our legal 

For twenty-seven years Arthur B. Spingarn had served as volun- 
teer chairman of our national legal committee, and had given so 

Ada Sipuel and Others ^^Similarly Situated*^ 143 

generously of his time to supervision and handling of most of the 
Association’s legal work that it was a kind of a joke between him 
and ourselves that he handled his own private law practice during 
such brief periods as he was not engaged in working without com- 
pensation for the NAACP. 

Charlie Houston had made a record at Amherst and Harvard 
Law School which few men have equaled and almost none have 
surpassed at either of these educational institutions. He had been 
elected to Phi Beta Kappa at Amherst, and at the Harvard Law 
School he was the first Negro to be elected editor of the Harvard 
Law Review, a record which has been equaled and duplicated only 
by his cousin, William H. Hastie, now Governor of the Virgin 

Charlie’s first job with us was the legal attack on one of the most 
grievous handicaps from which the Negro suffers— the gross inequal- 
ities in the expenditure of public moneys for education of whites 
and Negroes in those states where nine thirteenths of Negroes live 
and where segregated schools are required by law and custom. The 
United States Bureau of Education had estimated conservatively that 
it would take twenty-six million dollars annually to equalize edu- 
cation of Negroes and whites in those states. The United States 
Supreme Court had on several occasions ruled that there was no 
discrimination per se in forcing Negroes to attend segregated schools 
as long as the facilities were equal. However, such equality was 
notoriously a figment of the legal imagination. The average per 
capita expenditure for whites in these states was around forty-five 
dollars a year and that for Negroes twelve dollars. 

I was particularly concerned with this matter of education because 
it was a continuation of the struggle we had begun in Atlanta two 
decades before— the first to be carried out in a determined and or- 
ganized fashion, and one which had met with at least partial success. 
More than a decade later we are still engaged in that stniggle, but 
much progress has been made during the past fifteen years. 

In a case arising in Missouri where a young Negro by the name 
of Lloyd Gaines brought suit, with the aid of the NAACP, to obtain 
a legal education on the same basis as was provided for white Mis- 
sourians, the United States Supreme Court ruled in 1938 that the 

144 ^ Called White 

state must either supply a law school for Negroes substantially equal 

to that supplied for whites, or else must admit Negro applicants 

to the already existing “white” law school of the University of 


Although the Gaines decision was handed down only a few years 
ago, enormous changes in public opinion and that of state officials 
have taken place. The ultimate objective of the NAACP, which we 
have stated without equivocation, is the total abolition of every form 
of segregated education in tax-supported institutions. The record 
has established beyond all doubt that for economic and other reasons 
it is wholly impossible for even the wealthiest states to pay for 
duplication of schools of law, medicine, engineering, and other pro- 
fessional and graduate subjects. The states which are backward 
enough to require such segregation are, in addition, the poorest states 
in the Union. 

There were many persons, including some of our friends and 
supporters, who questioned the wisdom of our all-out campaign 
against educational inequalities, even against inequalities in teachers’ 
salaries. We were not at all certain ourselves that there might not 
be disturbances in some of the states of the deeper South. We there- 
for planned our campaign carefully to fight such cases not only in 
courts of law, but in those of public opinion as well. We stressed the 
cost to society as a whole of such discrimination. The results have 
been gratifying and in some instances startling. Each year we have 
found more newspapers, public officials, and others admitting the 
justice of our contentions and frequently supporting them. 

Two of the most exciting cases in which we have played a part 
arc those of Ada Lois Sipuel and Hemon Marion Sweatt. 

Miss Sipuel, an honor graduate from the State College for Negroes 
at Langston, Oklahoma, is an attractive young colored woman who 
yearned for a legal education such as was available to her white 
fellow Oklahomans. Unable to afford the much higher cost of going 
North for training as a lawyer, she appealed to the NAACP for aid 
in her effort to enter the University of Oklahoma after she had been 
refused admittance because she was a Negro. Miss Sipuel’s case 
reached the Supreme Court of the United States for argument almost 
two years after the date of filing of the first suit in her behalf on 

Ada Sipuel and Others ^^Sirmlarly Situated'^ 145 

April 6, 1946. But long before it reached that tribunal, it had become 
apparent in Oklahoma that a new South was being born. When 
Miss Sipuel had applied in person to the University for admission 
to the law school, she was greeted on the campus, to the amazement 
of herself and her attorneys, by a sizable number of students who 
welcomed her and took her to luncheon after the ordeal of refusal 
of admission was over. This revolutionary change was most notice- 
able among students who were veterans of World War Two. 

The insecurity which defenders of the old order experienced at 
this change of attitude on the part of many students was apparent 
in the attitude of the white Oklahoma attorneys when they sought 
to defend the University’s action before the Supreme Court. Cross- 
examination by the Court was almost savage as the flaws in the argu- 
ment of the Oklahoma attorneys were pointed out by the Supreme 
Court justices. Mr. Justice Jackson, for example, implacably pur- 
sued his questioning of the attorneys as to what the State of Okla- 
homa had done to comply with the lower court’s order that the 
State had to admit Miss Sipuel to the existing law school or to 
provide a “substantially equal” but segregated law school for Ne- 
groes. Attempts to evade a direct answer were futile. Eventually the 
lawyer, Mac Q. Williamson, admitted that, although two years had 
passed, nothing had been done to comply with the court’s mandate. 
Mr. Justice Jackson snorted that at that rate of speed of compliance 
Miss Sipuel would be “an old lady” before she became a lawyer. 

We were jubilant when the Supreme Court five days after argu- 
ment of the case (one of the shortest periods between argument and 
decision in the history of the Supreme Court) unanimously ordered 
Oklahoma to supply forthwith a legal education to Miss Sipuel. 
Although the Court evaded a specific ruling on the issue of segre- 
gation, as had been characteristic of the Court’s decisions to date, 
the forthwith order could mean only one thing— admission of Miss 
Sipuel to the already existing law school, since it would be impossible 
to create a separate “Negro” school overnight. Our jubilation was 

The Supreme Court decision handed down on January 12, 1948, 
had unequivocally held that 

1^6 A Man Called White 

The petitioner is entitled to secure legal education afforded by a state 
institution. To this time, it has been denied her although during the same 
period many white applicants have been afforded legal education by the 
State. The State must provide it for her in conformity with the equal- 
protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and provide it as soon 
as it does for applicants of any other group. Missouri ex rel. Gaines versus 
Canada, 305 U.S. 337 (1938). 

The Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma had voted 
seven to one to admit Miss Sipuel and all other qualified Negroes 
to professional schools at the University which were not duplicated 
at the State College for Negroes at Langston. Their action was 
based not only on respect for the United States Supreme Court but 
also on the very practical circumstance that the cost of duplicate, 
and substantially equal, professional and graduate schools for Ne- 
groes would be fantastically prohibitive. President George L. Cross 
of the University of Oklahoma was quoted as saying realistically, 
“You can’t build a cyclotron for one student!” 

The reaction of a majority of the students at the University of 
Oklahoma was more vigorous and direct. They staged a dramatic 
demonstration in front of the administration building of the Uni- 
versity when the State Attorney General issued an indignant opinion 
to the effect that Oklahoma laws prohibiting white and Negro stu- 
dents from attending the same schools took precedence over the 
mandate of the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court 
of Oklahoma on January 17, 1948, ordered the Board of Regents 
“to afford the plaintiff, and all others similarly situated, an oppor- 
tunity to commence the study of law at a state institution as soon as 
citizens of other groups are afforded such opportunity.” On the basis 
of this decision the District Court of Cleveland County of Oklahoma 
five days later directed the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher 
Education to enroll plaintiff or not enroll “any applicant of any 
group in said class [first-year class of the School of Law of the 
University of Oklahoma] until said separate school is established and 
ready to function.” 

With haste which was ludicrous had not its implications of eva- 
sion of the United States Supreme Court edict been so tragic, the 
Board of Regents roped off a space in the State Capitol as a “law 

Ada Sipuel and Others ^^Similarly Situated^" 147 

school” for Miss Sipuel “and others similarly situated,” assigning 
three teachers to the makeshift school. Because the subterfuge came 
nowhere near to meeting the most minimum requirements of the 
American Bar Association and the Association of American Law 
Schools, Miss Sipuel refused to enroll in the “law school.” 

Again the white students at the University of Oklahoma sprang 
into action. More than one thousand of them attended the mass 
meeting already mentioned in front of the administration building 
of the University on January 29, 1948. Speaker after speaker as- 
serted that the overwhelming majority of the students not only did 
not object to the admission of Negro graduate and professional 
students but insisted that they be admitted. At the conclusion of the 
meeting a solemn and melodramatic rite was performed— a copy of 
the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was 
burned as a youthful speaker eloquently asserted that “This amend- 
ment has been nullified by the Board of Regents.” The ashes were 
carefully placed in an envelope addressed to the President of the 
United States. A delegation of one hundred students marched 
solemnly to the post office to mail the letter to the White House. 

To our surprise and chagrin, the Court turned down by a seyen- 
to-two vote the petition for a writ of mandamus which we filed 
in Miss Sipuel’s behalf. The majority of the Court held that its 
mandate had not been violated, despite the incontrovertible facts 
which were apparent even to the layman: that Miss Sipuel was not 
being given a legal education on the same basis as that which was 
being provided for white applicants. Mr. Justice Wiley B. Rutledge 
vigorously and bluntly dissented. The Supreme Court’s decision, he 
asserted, could not be complied with “by establishing overnight a 
separate law school for Negroes.” Technical compliance could have 
been effected by excluding all applicants for admission to the 
first-year class of the State University Law School after the date 
of the order or, depending upon the meaning of that order, by 
excluding such applicants and asking all first-year students enrolled 
prior to that order’s date to withdraw from school. 

But neither of those courses would comply with the Supreme 
Court’s mandate, Mr. Justice Rutledge declared. That mandate 
meant to him that 

148 A Man Called White 

Oklahoma should end the discrimination practiced against petitioner at 
once, not at some later dme, near or remote ... in my comprehension 
the quality required was equality in fact, not in legal fiction. 

Obviously no separate law school could be established elsewhere over- 
night capable of giving petitioner a legal education equal to that afforded 
by the state’s long-established and well-known state university law 
school. Nor could the necessary time be taken to create such facilities, 
while continuing to deny them to petitioner, without incurring the delay 
which would continue the discrimination our mandate required to end 
at once. Neither would the state comply with it by continuing to deny 
the required legal education to petitioner while affording it to any other 
student, as it could do by excluding only students in the first-year class 
from the state university law school. 

Since the state court’s orders allow the state authorities at their elec- 
tion to pursue alternative courses, some of which do not comply with 
our mandate, I think those orders inconsistent with it. Accordingly I 
dissent from the Court’s opinion and decision in this case. 

Mr. Justice Frank Murphy wrote no formal dissent but was re- 
ported as holding the opinion that a hearing should be granted by 
the Supreme Court to determine “whether the action of the Okla- 
homa courts subsequent to the issuance of this Court’s mandate 
constitutes an evasion of that mandate.” 

But what had been accepted by the country at large and particu- 
larly by a sizable segment of the people of Oklahoma to be a final 
determination of the issue of segregation or denial of professional or 
graduate training for Negroes was deferred. Wearily, we had once 
again to recommence action in the Oklahoma court, at considerable 
expense of time, money, and energy, to attain for Negro citizens the 
elemental privileges which the authors of the Fourteenth Amend- 
ment believed they were assuring when they wrote that historic 

Miss Sipuel’s legal action for legal education was commenced 
April 6, 1946. Approximately five weeks later, on May 15 th, a 
similar action was commenced in Houston, Texas, on behalf of 
Hemon Marion Sweatt, a young Negro mail carrier who also 
wanted to become a lawyer. It was possible in Mr. Sweatt’s case, for 
a variety of reasons, to raise even more explicitly than in Miss Si- 
puel’s the basic issue as to whether or not there could ever be real 
equality of opportunity in a racially segregated pattern of education. 

Ada Sipuel and Others ^^Similarly Situated"^ 149 

To avoid boring the reader with dry recitals of legal procedures, I 
shall very briefly summarize the steps in the long legal battle whose 
end is not yet in sight as I write. But although the writing of briefs 
and the filing of motions of appeal from unfavorable decisions in 
lower courts may sound uninteresting, Mr. Sweatt’s case, like those 
of countless others for whom we have interceded, was packed tight 
with drama as gripping as that of most novels and plays. Because 
we were fighting for basic human rights, courtrooms were invari- 
ably packed to capacity with auditors both white and Negro, even 
when some of the most routine legal procedures were being argued. 

One month after filing of the case, the One Hundred and Twenty- 
sixth District Court of Travis County, Texas, granted the applica- 
tion for a writ of mandamus against the members of the Board of 
Regents and officials of the University of Texas, to which Mr. 
Sweatt had applied for entrance. The court’s decision held that 
Sweatt was fully qualified for admission to the law school and had 
been denied admission solely because of his race and had thereby 
been denied his constitutional right to the equal protection of the 
laws. But issuance of the writ was stayed for six months to permit 
Texas to establish a “separate law school for Negroes substantially 
equal to the one at the University of Texas.” Six months later, on 
December 17, 1946, no substantially equivalent or any other kind of 
law school having been established, another petition for mandamus 
was filed. Despite the obvious and easily provable fact that Texas had 
totally failed to obey the court’s order except in setting up a “law 
school” in the basement of a building in Houston which Sweatt, 
upon our advice, ignored, the petition for mandamus was dismissed 
and an appeal taken to the Court of Civil Appeals of Texas. This 
appeal was argued on March 5, 1947, and the lower court as the 
result was ordered to rehear the case. It was obvious that every 
stratagem which could be devised was being utilized to keep the 
law school of the University of Texas “white.” But those who were 
doing this ran into opposition from quarters which had not been 
anticipated— the student body and a number of faculty members of 
the University. 

As in the Sipuel case in Oklahoma, the new South began to be 
heard. Conservative newspapers, organizations like the Klan, and 

150 A Man Called White 

elderly members of the Board of Trustees asserted that admission of 
Negroes to the “white” university would result immediately in riots 
of protest by the student body. The least ominous development, 
they asserted, would be ostracism of Sweatt and other Negro stu- 
dents by the students themselves. 

The instant reaction of students and many other white Texans 
was most heartening. Led by a popular young war veteran, Jim 
Smith, whose leadership qualities had caused him to be elected 
president of the student body, a mass meeting was staged by Uni- 
versity of Texas students at Austin during the trial of the case. More 
than two thousand persons packed the hall and filled near-by cor- 
ridors. Smith told the audience— and Texas— that he did not presume 
to speak for all of the students at the University, but that he did 
voice the convictions of a majority of the white students who be- 
lieved that democracy and Christianity should be practiced as well 
as preached. As for the reports that Sweatt would be manhandled 
or ostracized if he were admitted to the University, Smith, with 
quiet but moving sincerity, declared, “Hemon Sweatt is my friend 
now— and he will be my friend after he is admitted to the University 
of Texas!” 

The revered and famous Professor J. Frank Dobie, at that time 
head of the Department of English at the University of Texas, was 
also a speaker at the meeting. “If Texas establishes a genuinely equal 
school of law,” he declared, “I shall say no more. But if it does not 
do so, I favor the admission of Mr. Sweatt and all other similarly 
situated to the law school of the University now.” It took courage 
to make such a statement. Homer Rainey, president of the Univer- 
sity and former head of the U, S. Department of Education, had 
been summarily dismissed from his post not long before for making 
statements favoring more adequate educational opportunities for 
Negroes which were considerably less forthright than were Profes- 
sor Dobie’s. He knew that he risked the same fate as that which had 
befallen President Rainey. But his own personal integrity made him 
incapable of silence, whatever the cost. Professor Dobie’s courageous 
action, however, revealed an interesting and significant development 
of public opinion. Despite the bluster of its politicians, Texas dem- 
onstrated that it was not as 'incapable of growth as the professional 

Ada Sipuel and Others ^^Similarly Situated*^ 151 

Southerners declared, nor as insensitive to outside criticism. Unlike 
President Rainey, who had found little support in Texas outside of 
the University for his more moderate position, Professor Dobie was 
widely commended for his stand. But the bigots were not finished. 
The Board of Trustees decided shortly afterward that it would not 
renew Professor Dobie’s contract, on the ground that he did not 
teach as many hours per week as other professors, conveniently 
ignoring the fact that Professor Dobie’s literary reputation as his- 
torian, poet, and distinguished authority on Americana exceeded 
that of any other living Texas writer. 

But the students refused to stop with the holding of a mass pro- 
test meeting. A college chapter of the National Association for 
the Advancement of Colored People was organized on the campus 
of the University— the only all-white unit of the NAACP. We were 
assured that as soon as Mr. Sweatt’s fight was won he and other 
Negro students would join the college chapter and thereby cure 
its involuntary all-whiteness. Members of the college chapter 
launched a vigorous campaign in the city of Austin for funds to 
assist the NAACP in fighting the Sweatt case. 

This revealed a most amazing fissure in the wall, apparently im- 
penetrable, of nonstudent Texas opposition to the breaking down 
of educational segregation. A policeman had harried the students as 
they solicited passers-by for contributions, demanding repeatedly 
that they move to another spot because in the one they occupied 
they were “obstructing traffic.” Toward the end of the day, the 
officer sidled up to one of the students and asked, “You fellows 
seem to believe in what you are doing, don’t you?” Assuming the 
policeman to be hostile, one of the students assured him somewhat 
belligerently that they did indeed believe in equality. Surreptitiously 
the policeman handed the student a piece of paper, looking about 
him at the same time somewhat apprehensively to see if his action was 
being observed. It turned out to be a five-dollar bill to help in the 

Thurgood Marshall and W. J. Durham of Dallas argued the Sweatt 
case again in the Court of Civil Appeals early in 1948, and again the 
higher court affirmed the trial court’s refusal to order Sweatt ad- 
mitted to the law school. Hemon Sweatt continues to deliver mail 

i$2 A Man Called White 

in Houston to earn a living for himself and his family. The years 
pass for him and Ada Sipuel and others “similarly situated”— taxed 
to support “public” institutions of learning from which no circum- 
stance other than color bars them. But they and others know that 
tiiey fight not only for themselves, nor even exclusively for Negroes, 
but to cure a disease which threatens to rot the very roots of democ- 

But I am getting ahead of the story. During the thirties, at Middle- 
burg, Virginia, a Negro named George Crawford was charged with 
the murder of a socially prominent white woman and her maid in 
that exclusive fox-hunting area. Crawford was arrested in Massachu- 
setts, where he stoutly maintained he was at the time of the murder. 
Posses had combed the countryside, and had the murderer been 
apprehended at the time, a prominent citizen of Loudoun County 
told me afterward, he would have been burned at the stake. The 
leader of one of the posses was the famous General “Billy” Mitchell. 

We hurried a young white woman investigator to the scene and 
she reported that as far as she was able to determine, Crawford was 
telling the truth. We therefore decided to oppose extradition of 
Crawford from Massachusetts to Virginia. J. Weston Allen, former 
Attorney General of Massachusetts, and Butler R. Wilson, a promi- 
nent Negro lawyer and president of our Boston branch, fought 
extradition and sued for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States 
District Court, which was granted by Judge James A. Lowell. Judge 
Lowell’s action became a nation-wide issue when Southern congress- 
men demanded his impeachment for action on the law as he inter- 
preted it. Actual impeachment proceedings were begun against him 
and were pending at the time of his death. The Circuit Court of 
Appeals reversed Judge Lowell, and Crawford was returned to 
Virginia for trial in an atmosphere which was so explosive that 
both Crawford and his counsel were openly threatened with death. 

Charlie Houston and I talked long and often over the strategy 
to be used in Crawford’s defense. Up to that time Negro lawyers, 
particularly in the South, were seldom employed even by their own 
people, on the grounds that they lacked, among other things, ex- 
perience. But these same lawyers could not obtain experience for 

Ada Sipuel and Others ^^Similarly Sitmted^^ 153 

reasons of nonemployment. An increasing number of brilliant law- 
yers like Charlie Houston himself were graduating from first-class 
Northern law schools. These men were needed in the South particu- 
larly, as well as in Northern cities, to handle the many thousands 
of cases of individual litigation or issues affecting the basic rights of 
Negroes and other minorities. At the same time we were experienc- 
ing difficulty in obtaining the services of top white lawyers because 
of the bitter feeling surrounding the Crawford case. We decided 
that the die must be cast sometime soon on the issue of the use of 
Negro lawyers in important cases. We knew that for many years to 
come there would be certain types of cases in which there would be 
an advantage in having a white lawyer in preference to a Negro 
attorney, but our real objective was to hasten the time when an 
attorney’s color in a court of law would be of no importance and 
where the only criterion would be his ability. We therefore decided 
that Charlie should serve as chief counsel and that Leon A. Ransom, 
Edward P. Lovett, and James G. Tyson, young colored attorney 
of Washington, should assist him. 

Just as we were about to go to trial, the already explosive situa- 
tion threatened full conflagration through a viciously garbled ac- 
count of a speech made by Charlie at a mass meeting in Washing- 
ton. As counsel for Crawford, Charlie of course refrained from 
discussing the details of the case, but as one of the most distinguished 
Negro citizens of the nation’s capital he excoriated the indifference 
there to the conditions to which less fortunate Negroes were sub- 
jected. “Negro Washington boasts of more college degrees and a 
higher average income than any other city in the country,” he 
declared. “But what happens to your ‘security’ when you cross the 
Potomac River? It matters not how many college degrees or how 
large a bank account you possess—so long as your skin is dark you 
will be as quickly a victim of prejudice as the most illiterate and 
impoverished Negro.” 

Then came the paragraph which was later so distorted as to en- 
danger our safety. 

“You’ve got to be willing to make every sacrifice, even to the 
point of having your own heads cracked, until no Negro can be 

154 ^ Mian Called White 

mistreated solely because he is a Negro, anywhere in the United 


A small country newspaper in Loudoun County published an 
inflammatory front-page story the following day headed: lawyer 
hension caused by this headline in an already overwrought situation 
caused Douglas Southall Freeman, editor of the 'Richmond News 
Leader and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of a biography of Gen- 
eral Robert E. Lee, and Virginius Dabney, editor of the Richmond 
Times-Dispatchy to request the governor to furnish protection by 
State troopers for Charlie and the other counsel and myself and to 
prevent disorder at the trial itself. 

Another indication of the tension was found in the refusal of any 
Negro in Loudoun County to give food and shelter to us during the 
trial. They understandably feared attacks upon their homes if we 
stayed there. It was therefore necessary for us to drive the thirty-five 
miles from Washington to Leesburg each morning and return to 
Washington each night to find a place to sleep. For the first week we 
had to take box lunches to Leesburg because both whites and Negroes 
were afraid to feed us, although a courageous colored woman later 
prepared delicious hot meals for us. Both the judge and the state police 
insisted during the first few days of the trial on adjournment in time 
to permit us to reach the District of Columbia line before nightfall. 

The feeling in the community was such that we were in complete 
agreement with this plan. 

Each night during the trial the lawyers worked late in the library 
of the Howard University Law School. There was a lanky, brash 
young senior law student who was always present. I used to wonder 
at his presence and sometimes was amazed at his assertiveness in 
challenging positions taken by Charlie and the other lawyers. But 
I soon learned of his great value to the case in doing everything he 
was asked, from research on obscure legal opinions to foraging for 
coffee and sandwiches. The law student was Thurgood Marshall, 
who later became special counsel of the Association and one whose 
arguments were listened to with respect by the United States Su- 
preme Court. 

A minor miracle occurred as the trial progressed. The prosecutor, 

Ada Sipuel and Others ^^Similarly Situated^^ 155 

though steeped in Southern tradition, had shared with us on the day 
we went to trial some of the information he had gathered. To our 
dismay, we learned that our investigators had not secured all the 
facts and that Crawford had lied about not having left Massachu- 
setts from the day he had gone there from Virginia and the day 
that he was brought back a prisoner. Lonesome for his wife, he had 
returned to Virginia and there encountered a Negro who had pro- 
posed that they rob the Ilsley home that night. Crawford had agreed, 
but, because he was a timorous person, mortally afraid of the law 
and of “white folks,’’ he had remained outside as a lookout while 
the other man had entered to commit the robbery. His accomplice 
had committed the murders when the two women, aroused from 
sleep, attempted to attack him. 

Such a revelation would have disheartened less interested or skilled 
lawyers. The judge who presided over the trial shared the paternal- 
istic attitude of many Southerners toward Negroes. But the bril- 
liance of the defense by Houston, Ransom, Lovett, and Tyson and 
their obvious superiority to the local lawyers drew respect from 
the Court, jury, and spectators which was reluctant at first, but 
eventually was almost without reservation. One day I sat near a 
lanky Virginia farmer clad in overalls and manifestly in need of a 
shave and bath. A spirited passage at arms over a legal technicality 
was being waged between the prosecutor and Houston. The latter’s 
greater familiarity with the law was so obvious that the Court ruled 
in his favor. The Virginia farmer turned to his companion, nodding 
his head admiringly, and declared, “You got to give it to him. He 
knows what he’s talking about even if he is a nigger.” 

The turning point of the case rested on the acceptance or rejec- 
tion by the jury of the testimony of a pathologist from Washington 
on whether or not bits of skin found under the fingernails of Mrs. 
Ilsley were Crawford’s. Andy Ransom had spent many days and 
nights steeping himself in facts gleaned from interviews with scien- 
tists and reading books on the subject of identification of such 
tissues. His cross-examination of the pathologist was so well-informed 
and unrelenting that even the jury, which was none too sympathetic, 
refused to accept the pathologist’s confident statements. Ransom’s 
cross-examination and Houston’s summation to the jury resulted in 

1^6 A Man Called White 

a sentence of life imprisonment instead of the death chair. Negro 
and white Virginians, as well as those in other states, learned from 
the Crawford case that there were Negro lawyers, given an oppor- 
tunity to prove their mettle and ability, who were equal to lawyers 
of any other race, even in cases involving racial tension as deep as 
that of the Crawford case. 

Early in 1933 Thomas Hocutt, a young graduate of the North 
Carolina State College for Negroes at Durham, wrote me of his 
ambition to study pharmacy. His white fellow North Carolinians 
were able to secure such education at little cost in the excellent 
School of Pharmacy of the University of North Carolina, but Ho- 
cutt, because he was a Negro, was barred. Faced with the choice of 
abandoning his dream or finding the money somewhere for travel 
and tuition at a school of pharmacy in the North, he asked our 
advice and assistance. His letter was responsible for my meeting 
one of the ablest men I have ever known and the enlistment of his 
great ability in the work of the NAACP. 

Two years earlier Felix Frankfurter had told me at his home in 
Cambridge to “keep your eye on a young man named Hastie who 
will graduate in June from the Harvard Law School— he is one of 
the finest students who has ever studied at Harvard during my 

Charlie Houston was engrossed in preparation for the George 
Crawford trial when Hocutt’s appeal reached us. Charlie suggested 
that we enlist the services of William H. Hastie, who at the time 
was back at Harvard for his degree of Doctor of Juridical Science. 
Hastie immediately agreed to go to North Carolina without fee to 
join the two local attorneys, Conrad O. Pearson and Cecil A. 
McCoy, in a hearing on a writ of mandamus in Hocutt’s behalf to 
test the constitutionality of the law excluding Negroes from the 
tax-supported professional schools of the University of North Caro- 

Filing of the suit created a sensation, as it was the first of its kind. 
North Carolina newspapers played up the statement that the same 
NAACP which had defeated North Carolina’s John J. Parker for the 
Supreme Court had at its beck and call the most distinguished con- 

"Ada Sipuel and Others ^Shmkrly Situated*' 157 

sdtutional lawyers in the United States. It was predicted that a 
whole battery of such lawyers would be sent south to force Hocutt’s 
entrance into the state university. These threats apparently were 
taken at full face value, because there were assigned to defend the 
University the Attorney General of the state, Dennis Brummitt; 
the First Assistant Attorney General, A. A. F. Seawell, and Victor 
Bryant, one of the leading white members of the North Carolina 
bar. They were assisted by the Dean and Assistant Dean of the 
University Law School. 

We purposely made no announcement of Hocutt’s counsel until 
the day of the trial. The Southern courtroom gasped when it learned 
that we had assigned two young North Carolina Negro lawyers and 
Mr. Hastie to oppose the distinguished battery of defense counsel 
for the state. Attorney General Brummitt was a lawyer of the old 
school, addicted to flamboyant oratory. Whatever apprehension 
he might have experienced prior to the trial appeared to vanish 
when he looked across the room and saw that his opposition con- 
sisted of Negroes. His self-assurance, however, was short-lived. He 
began an impassioned harangue that the legal action in Hocutt’s 
behalf had been brought solely to promote “social equality” and 
“intermarriage.” He flailed his arms as he shouted that for one hun- 
dred and forty-four years the University had been operated exclu- 
sively for whites and that “I think there is a deep motive behind 
this suit and I think that motive is that this niggra wants to associate 
with white people.” 

But each time the Attorney General dragged in extraneous issues 
in waving the bloody shirt and refighting the Civil War, Hastie 
quietly called the attention of the Court to violations of correct 
legal procedure and noted exceptions for the record, which in- 
creasingly discomfited the bombastic Attorney General. The court- 
room was crowded to utmost capacity, and contained a large number 
of students of the University of North Carolina and of near-by Duke 
University. Soon derisive laughter began to greet each deflation of 
the Attorney General as Judge M. V. Barnhill impartially ruled in 
Hastie’s favor. Overnight the case became even more a cause 
cdlibre. Lawyers and other citizens from all over the state came to 
Durham as news of the exciting exchangee in the courtroom were 

158 A Man Called White 

published by the press. We saw a new development in the South 
when young white students from Duke and North Carolina Uni- 
versity surrounded Hastie and his fellow counsel for Hocutt to 
congratulate them, much to the annoyance of the Attorney General. 

The case exhibited an amusing trait of those older Southerners 
who found their concepts of Negroes upset by the manner in which 
the colored lawyers, and particularly Hastie, were handling them- 
selves. Stories began to spread over the state that any Negro as able 
as Hastie was atypical. One story was circulated that Hastie was a 
federal judge (which he was later to become) ; another, that he was 
an assistant United States attorney general. To support old concepts 
of Negro inferiority, Hastie had to be proved a biological and racial 

Negroes, on hearing the stories, concocted their own— that Hastie 
was neither a judge nor an attorney general, but only a law student, 
whom the NAACP thought good enough to handle the Attorney 
General of North Carolina. 

Judge Barnhill told me after the case was finished that it had been 
one of the most brilliantly argued trials in his experience of twenty- 
two years on the bench. He ruled against us on a technicality, and 
that technicality is an interesting revelation of the moral effect on 
some Negro educators of segregation. The regulations of the Uni- 
versity of North Carolina required an applicant to attach a transcript 
of his scholastic record at the school he had previously attended, 
but Hocutt was unable to attach his record to his application be- 
cause of the refusal of the president of the North Carolina College 
for Negroes to supply him with it. The president had refused Ho- 
cutt his transcript— although he was legally entitled to it upon 
request— when he learned that Hocutt intended to apply to the 
University of North Carolina. The president of the Negro college 
feared that he would be charged with complicity in the case when 
next he applied to the state legislature for funds for the Negro 

Judge Barnhill ruled that Hocutt had not fully complied with 
the admission requirements by writing on his application that the 
University could obtain his scholastic record from the North Caro- 
lina College for Negroes. 

Ada Sipuel and Others ""Simlarly Situate 159 

But in denying the writ of mandamus. Judge Barnhill stated 
unequivocally that in his judgment Hocutt had been denied admis- 
sion solely on the ground that he was a person of African descent. 
He held that the State of North Carolina must comply with the 
United States Supreme Court ruling that “substantially equal” facili- 
ties must be supplied to Negro citizens. 

Although we lost the case legally, we won it in extraordinary 
fashion in the court of public opinion. Students of the University 
of North Carolina were polled by The Daily Tarheel j and a sur- 
prisingly large percentage favored immediate admission of qualified 
Negroes at least to the graduate schools of the University. Even 
those students who favored continuation of segregation voted their 
belief that nonsegregated tax-supported schools were inevitable. The 
state legislature was asked to appropriate funds for education of 
Negro students in professional schools “where they may be lawfully 
admitted,” but the state senate killed the bill after it had been passed 
by the house of representatives. But even in that development a new 
South made its appearance. 

Angered by the Hocutt suit, some of the legislators, particularly 
those from the more backward rural areas, demanded decrease 
instead of increase in funds for the education of Negroes. 

One legislator. Deacon Barden of Craven, was so stirred by the 
proposal that he was moved to declare, as quoted in the Greensboro 
Daily News of March 18, 1933: 

“Mr. Speaker, I have sat here and watched this house today. I know 
there is nothing I can say that will stop what you are doing. But I 
tremble when 1 think of its consequences. Here you have voted to de- 
crease all the appropriations and God knows they are small enough, at 
best, to the Negro institutions, and you give the Cherokee Indian school 
nearly fifty percent more than the gentleman from Ashe had allowed 
it. Mr. Speaker, I wonder by what process you increase the appropriation 
to the Indians who scalped our forefathers and take from the Negroes 
who slaved for us? 

“I came to this general assembly as honestly and as reverently as I 
went to my church. 1 wanted to do the fair thing by everybody in 
North Carolina. This thing affects me deeply. I am a freshman here, 
and maybe 1 am not yet callous to such injustice as this. 1 am apprehen- 
sive of what is going on here. I know it’s pleasant to be in the majority 
but there are things that ring louder in my ears than the shouts of 

i6o A Man Called White 

majorities. Mr. Speaker, the gentleman from Durham introduced an 
amendment here to lift the appropriations of the North Carolina College 
for Negroes from $18,130 to $24,170 recommended by the Appropriations 
Committee. I would like to know why you voted this down.” 

Mr. Cherry replied: “Because we thought they could live on it.” 

Mr. Barden went back at him. “Does the gentleman mean then, that 
in making other recommendations for increases, or decreases, he did not 
know what he was doing? . . . The original appropriation in all con- 
science is small enough.” 

Mr. Bowie, who had kept still nearly all the day, rose to enlighten 
Judge Barden. 

“Doesn’t the gentleman know that this Negro college in Durham is 
doing classical work?” Mr. Bowie asked. 

“I do, and hasn’t it the right to do that kind of work?” Mr. Barden 
replied spiritedly. 

“Well, at a time like this I don’t think so,” Mr. Bowie continued. 

“Your son got a classical education, didn’t he?” Mr. Barden asked. 

“Yes, but my son and a Negro are different,” Mr. Bowie said with 
manifest resentment. 

“They are both citizens of North Carolina, aren’t they?” Mr. Barden 
shot back. 

Chairman Murphy rapped for order, but said: “The chair wishes to 
say that it agrees heartily with the gentleman from Craven.” 

Exposure of the complete failure of Southern states to provide 
graduate and professional training shocked a great many white 
Americans, though the fact had long been known to Negro Ameri- 
cans. The directing head of one of the large educational foundations 
who had contributed generously to Negro education admitted after- 
ward that his fears that the bringing of legal action would result 
in race riots had proved wholly unfounded. As for Negroes them- 
selves, they were determined to make similar tests in other states and 
to continue the fight no matter how numerous the setbacks or how 
great the difficulty. 

In 1935 Donald Murray applied to us for aid when refused admis- 
sion to the University of Maryland School of Law. When the Uni- 
versity authorities stood adamant in their refusal to admit him to the 
law school or to provide “substantially equal” facilities for a legal 
education elsewhere, we brought a mandamus action in his behrif. 
As the case progressed, public sentiment developed against unncccs- 
saiy expenditure of money to establish a separate law school for 

Ada Sipuel and Others *^Similarly Situated*^ i6i 

Murray- When we won the case in the Court of Appeals, the Uni- 
versity of Maryland admitted him to its law school. There were a 
few threats of violence against Murray, most of them from indi- 
viduals who had no connection with the University, but the at- 
mosphere was supercharged the day he reported for classes. One 
of the faculty suggested to us that Murray take the most inconspicu- 
ous seat in the rear of the classroom to demonstrate that he was not 
“forcing himself” upon the other students. This did not seem to us 
any more sound psychologically than it would have been for him 
to march in and take the most conspicuous seat. It was, therefore, 
agreed that he should come into the classroom like any other stu- 
dent, take a seat— neither conspicuous nor inconspicuous— and permit 
his fellow students to sit either as close to or as far away from him 
as the room would permit. 

Whatever potential crisis may have existed was dissolved when a 
white student from a town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, 
where a Negro had been burned alive by a mob a short while before, 
and who was the most popular man in the class, entered the room, 
marched directly to where Murray was sitting, shook hands with 
him, and sat down beside him. There was no more trouble. Donald 
Murray graduated after having made an excellent record and today 
practices law successfully in Baltimore. 

Despite the growing willingness and even eagerness of white stu- 
dents at state universities to see Negroes admitted, these struggles 
are often like beachhead invasions. Even after clear-cut legal vic- 
tories are won and Negro students admitted, counter assaults are 
often made which necessitate a continuous struggle, and occasion- 
ally the necessity of fighting to regain ground already won. 

Twelve years after Donald Murray was admitted to the Uni- 
versity of Maryland the same school refused to admit a Negro 
ex-Army officer, Wilmore B. Leonard, to a postgraduate course in 
chemistry, on the ground that formal notice in writing of his ac- 
ceptance as a student had been “a mistake.” But the principle estab- 
lished in the Murray case serves as legal basis for Captain Leonard 
a|id other qualified Negroes, and keeps their hope alive. For years 
we have been swamped with appeals from ambitious young Negroes 
in virtually every Southern state who want training in law, medicine. 

i62 a Man Called White 

dentistry, journalism, and other professions. The campaign in their 
behalf has been materially hampered by the series of events which 
followed the United States Supreme Court’s decision in the Lloyd 
Gaines case. 

Despite the decision, Missouri stubbornly refused to admit Gaines 
to the law school. As we were preparing to require the State of 
Missouri to prove in the federal courts that it had complied with 
the Court’s mandate by establishing a two-room law school in the 
basement of a St. Louis building, Gaines disappeared. To this day 
we have never located him. He has been variously reported in 
Mexico, apparently supplied with ample funds, and in other parts 
of North America. 

But when the University learned that other Negroes were plan- 
ning to apply for admission to the law school, the state legislature 
hastily appropriated funds totaling more than half a million dollars 
to establish a law school at the all-Negro Lincoln University in 
Jefferson City. In the meantime, militant Negroes picketed the jim- 
crow law school in St. Louis. To the considerable discomfort of the 
University and the legislature, they were joined in the picketing by 
white students from the University of Missouri, carrying signs 
reading: who objects to negroes at the xjniversity of Missouri? 


Shortly after this, in 1942, a brilliant young colored woman, Lu- 
cille Bluford of the Kansas City Call, applied for graduate education 
in journalism at the University of Missouri. When she went to 
Columbia to make formal application, a large body of students met 
her in welcome to a town where only a few years earlier a lynching 
had taken place. Relentless fighting of Miss Bluford’s case caused 
the legislature again to act on this issue in appropriating funds at 
considerable cost to the state to establish a school of journalism at 
Lincoln University. Whatever the cost to the taxpayer, most of the 
Southern states were determined to maintain segregation even if it 
bankrupted the state. One notable exception was West Virginia, 
which quietly admitted qualified Negroes to its graduate schools. 
The experiment has been carried out without difficulty. 

We commenced our battle against educational discrimination at 
die graduate and professional level because here not even a feeble 

Ada Sipuel and Others ^^Similarly SitmteiT^ 163 

pretense of supplying “equal but separate” facilities was being offered 
by Southern states. But shortly afterward we struck the first of 
many blows at the practice of paying Negro teachers far lower 
salaries than was paid to whites. In its total this difference accounted 
for a large part of the twenty-five million dollars annually which 
authorities estimated would be necessary to bring schools for Ne- 
groes up to the level of schools for whites in the South. 

We encountered extraordinary though not unexpected difficulties 
among some Negro teachers themselves. These were chiefly of the 
older generation who feared to antagonize white school boards. But 
eventually the more militant and younger teachers insisted on action. 
At the request of the Maryland State Colored Teachers Association 
we supplied legal aid to William F. Gibbs, Jr., an elementary school 
principal who brought suit to wipe out the considerable difference 
between his salary and the salaries paid to white principals who had 
the same qualifications and did identical work. It was developed 
during the trial of this case that the differentials in a single Maryland 
county exceeded thirty thousand dollars annually and that typically 
a white janitor in a white school received $339.00 per year more 
than a Negro elementary school teacher and $101.00 more than a 
Negro high school teacher. The facts were so incontrovertible and 
shocking that the Court decided in our favor and ordered equaliza- 
tion within a two-year period. Similar actions were brought in other 
counties, until eventually in 1941 the Maryland General Assembly 
enacted a biU which wiped out differentials totaling more than five 
hundred thousand dollars. 

The long and successful struggle in Maryland gave courage to 
teachers in states farther south, and we were increasingly implored 
to give legal aid during this period to fight differentials in other 
states. The Alston case, in which Judge John J. Parker abolished 
$129,000 in differentials between white and Negro teachers’ salaries 
in Norfolk, Virginia, has already been mentioned. Judge Parker’s 
characterization that such differentials were “as clearly discrimina- 
tion on the ground of race as can be imagined and [that they fell] 
squarely within the inhibition of both the due process and the equal 
protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment” was of immeas- 
urable value to our campaign. An action on behalf of Negro teachers 

164 A Man Called White 

in Louisville, Kentucky, which resulted in the wiping out of a 
$59,000 annual differential in that city, contributed, interestingly 
enough, to the abolition of pay differentials between white male and 
female teachers, for which the latter had been unsuccessfully fighting 
for many years, at considerable expense. 

But if I give the impression that these gains were won with case, 
it would be grossly incorrect. We had to meet all kinds of legal 
trickery. Various states, particularly in the Deep South, sought to 
evade the issue by abolishing ratings and tenure of teachers. Others 
attempted to put all teachers, white and Negro, on a year-to-year 
basis which would have given school boards the power of life and 
death over jobs of all teachers. The school superintendents of Ken- 
tucky sought to justify the inequality of salaries paid Negro and 
white teachers on the grounds that (i) the standards of living of 
Negroes in the South are lower than those of whites, therefore 
the cost of living is less for Negroes than for whites, (2) tradition- 
ally Negroes are paid less than whites, and public sentiment will 
not support equality in the salaries of white and Negro teachers, 
and (3) the quality of instruction of Negro teachers is generally 
inferior to that of white teachers with equal training. 

This is an example of the “which comes first— the chicken or the 
egg” type of reasoning which we constantly had to combat. We still 
must do so, though fortunately to a lesser extent each year. Taking 
Negroes in the South as a whole and contrasting the cost of living 
for them with whites as a whole is manifestly fallacious. The neces- 
sity of restricting one’s expenditures to his income rating is not con- 
fined to any one race, creed, or color. The cost of living for well- 
to-do Negroes is much higher than that of poor whites. Because 
whites have greater opportunity in business and the professions than 
Negroes in the South and in the country as a whole, they have 
larger incomes, can afford to buy better houses and goods, and thus 
naturally have a higher cost of living. Our contention has been that 
one should be paid what he is capable of earning, with no differen- 
tial based on race. Lower salaries paid to Negro teachers mean that 
they cannot afford as good houses, food, clothing, medical treat- 
ment, and recreation. It gives them less money to subscribe to tech- 
nical and other journals. Teachers’ salaries as low as twenty dollars 

Ada Sipuel and Others ^^Similarly Situated*^ 165 

per month in Mississippi do not permit teachers to take summer 
courses in institutions like Teachers College in New York or at the 
University of Chicago. It does not even permit them to attend the 
few training institutions for teachers which exist in Southern states. 

But already we feel greatly heartened by the fact that since 1935 
the successful termination of a good many legal actions brought to 
equalize teachers* salaries has resulted in wiping out approximately 
three million dollars of the twenty-five-million-dollar annual racial 
differential. More Negro teachers are going to summer schools and 
in other ways making themselves better teachers. But we have a long 
path yet to travel in wiping out the handicaps and deficiencies which 
have been three centuries in the making. 


Not Content with Preaching 

As the depression deepened and unemployment caused increasing 
competition for jobs, the annual number of lynchings steadily rose. 
In 1933 twenty-eight lynchings occurred, twenty-four of the vic- 
tims being Negroes and four of them whites. One of the victims 
was a young Negro boy who was lynched at Columbia, Tennessee, 
after having been acquitted on a charge of “molesting” a young 
white girl. At Princess Anne, Maryland, a Negro was burned at the 
stake. Two white men were lynched in San Jose, California. A state- 
ment by Governor Rolph of California attempting to justify the 
lynchers so shocked the nation that many organizations and individ- 
uals which had hitherto been indifferent were roused to action. 

I had unsuccessfully urged President Roosevelt on several occa- 
sions to speak out against lynching and to give his support to federal 
anti-lynching legislation. He finally did speak out on the occasion of 
the San Jose lynching. Addressing the annual conference of the Fed- 
eral Council of the Churches of Christ in America over a nation- 
wide radio hookup, he declared: “This new generation, for example, 
is not content with preaching against that vile form of collective 
murder, lynch law, which has broken out in our midst anew. We 
know that it is murder, and a deliberate and definite disobedience of 
the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ We do not excuse those in 
high places or in low who condone lynch law.” 

The San Jose lynchings brought valuable allies to our cause. 
Lewis Gannett of the New York Herald Tribune^ Helen Wood- 
ward, Benjamin Stolberg, and I joined in signing a telegram to one 
hundred leading writers, editors, and publishers asking if they 


Not Content with Preaching 167 

would join us in forming a Writers’ League Against Lynching. 
Eighty-one of the one hundred responded affirmatively and 
promptly, expressing their eagerness to join in using their talents 
against the crime. Within a fortnight the number had grown to two 
hundred. Harry Hansen of the New York World-Telegram was 
elected chairman and Lenore Marshall treasurer. Suzanne La Follette 
served as secretary and Nella Larsen as assistant secretary. The com- 
mittee kept writers supplied with carefully checked facts about 
lynchings and there has been ever since a continuing concern which 
has been reflected in articles, fiction, plays and other writings. 

The Writers’ League Against Lynching brought me into the first 
of an unbroken series of clashes and unpleasant experiences with 
Westbrook Pegler. Pegler had been a sports writer but had been 
suddenly promoted to columnist on the New York World-Telegram 
by Roy Howard as a possible replacement for Heywood Broun. 

Following the San Jose lynchings he wrote an article defending 
the lynchers and Governor Rolph which the Writers’ League 
Against Lynching vigorously protested. Pegler promptly began a 
long series of columns attacking the Writers’ League in general and 
myself in particular. 

But the Peglers and the Rolphs were increasingly becoming a 
minority in public opinion. When we renewed and stepped up our 
fight for the Costigan- Wagner Anti-Lynching Bill, we found the 
opposition no less determined, but at the same time we found 
support for the legislation from some who would have been most 
unlikely to give support even a few years before. The state legisla- 
tures of California, Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, New Jersey, and 
Pennsylvania; the state assemblies of Indiana, New York, and 
Illinois; the Massachusetts state senate, and the city councils of sev- 
eral cities, passed resolutions endorsing the bill. Church, labor, 
women’s, civil rights, fraternal, professional, and other groups, with 
a total membership of 53,720,593, were lined up in behalf of the 
legislation. But the archaic Senate rules which permit any senator 
to filibuster by speaking twice on any bill and on each amendment 
thereto for as long as he wishes again stymied our efforts. We were 
unable to get the Senate to consider the bill in 1934, despite a favor- 

1 68 A Man Called White 

able report on it by the Senate Judiciary Committee and a tremen- 
dous volume of public opinion in its support. 

But in 1935 the filibustcrers could not prevent its consideration. 
It was taken up by the Senate on April i6th, and immediately the 
late Senator “Cotton Ed” Smith of South Carolina launched a veno- 
mous attack on the bill and a defense of lynching as necessary “to 
protect the fair womanhood of the South from beasts.” Time and 
again the bill’s opponents attempted to dislodge it from the Senate 
calendar by motion to adjourn, but we were able to muster votes 
to defeat the motion each legislative day until May ist. In the mean- 
time before packed galleries the dismal tragicomedy was played with 
cynical skill by Southern senators, aided by Senator William E. 
Borah of Idaho. 

It was during this fight that I sought, for a long time unsuccess- 
fully, to obtain an appointment with President Roosevelt to urge 
him to take a definite stand on the anti-lynching bill. The lean and 
saturnine Marvin McIntyre, I learned later, had intercepted my 
letters and telegrams, showing none of them to the President. When 
the situation became so critical that the fate of the bill hung in the 
balance from hour to hour I turned in desperation to Mrs. Roosevelt. 
I explained the situation over the long-distance telephone and she 
promptly promised to give the facts I had told her to the Presi- 

The interview thus arranged was a most interesting revelation to 
me. I had known Mr. Roosevelt as Governor of New York state, but 
not too well. What I did know of his abilities during that period had 
caused me to be greatly surprised at the vigor and resourcefulness 
he had exhibited on becoming President. Since he had entered the 
White House my contacts with him had been few, but at the con- 
ference arranged by his wife on the anti-lynching bill there devel- 
oped between us a closer relationship, which was destined to last 
to the day of his death. 

The scene of the conference was the south portico of the White 
House on a warm spring Sunday in 1935 . 1 found Mrs. Sara Delano 
Roosevelt and the President’s wife on the porch, but the Presi- 
dent had been delayed in returning from a cruise on the Potomac 

Not Content with Preaching 169 

While waiting, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt and I discussed some of 
the arguments being made against the anti-lynching bill. Shortly 
afterward the President arrived in exuberant good spirits. As was 
his custom when he wished to avoid discussing a subject, he told 
many gay and amusing anecdotes to postpone an anticipated ordeal. 
But finally I was able to bring the conversation to the pending 

“But Joe Robinson [at the time Senate majority leader] tells me 
the bill is unconstitutional,” the President remarked. 

Having heard from Mrs. Roosevelt some of the arguments on 
this point which had been presented to the President by the bill’s 
opponents, I was ready with the opinions of prominent lawyers who 
had declared the bill constitutional. 

The President then told me of another argument which one of 
the filibusterers had made and I was able to present facts in refuta- 
tion. When this had happened three or four times, the President 
turned sharply and declared, “Somebody’s been priming you. Was 
it my wife?” 

I smiled and suggested that we stick to our discussion of the bill. 

The President then asked Mrs. Roosevelt if she had coached me, 
and she too smiled and suggested that the President stick to the 

Laughing, the President turned to his mother to say, “Well, at 
least I know you’ll be on my side.” 

The President’s mother shook her head and expressed the opinion 
that she agreed with Mr. White. 

Being a good loser, the President roared with laughter and con- 
fessed defeat. 

But I gained from the visit only a moral victory, because the 
President was frankly unwilling to challenge the Southern leader- 
ship of his party. 

“I did not choose the tools with which I must work,” he told me. 
“Had I been permitted to choose them I would have selected quite 
different ones. But I’ve got to get legislation passed by Congress to 
save America. The Southerners by reason of the seniority rule in 
Congress are chairmen or occupy strategic places on most of the 
Senate and House committees. If I come out for the anti-lynching 

170 A Man Called White 

bill now, they will block every bill I ask Congress to pass to keep 

America from collapsing. I just can’t take that risk.” 

On another occasion I had to contend with the President’s pre- 
dilection for telling lengthy and amusing stories to consume time 
and thereby shorten the opportunity for discussion of subjects he 
did not want to discuss. 

I had been informed by McIntyre that I had been allowed fifteen 
minutes and must not stay longer because the President had a very 
important engagement to follow mine. When I entered the Presi- 
dent’s office he greeted me warmly and said, “I’ve got a perfectly 
corking story for you which I have been saving because I know 
you will enjoy it.” 

My heart sank, because I knew I would have to talk very fast to 
get in the facts even in fifteen minutes. However pleasant the Presi- 
dent’s story might be, I preferred to waste none of the time allotted 
me. Ignoring protocol, I broke in to say, “Mac has told me that I 
have just fifteen minutes. If you start spinning yams, Mac will re- 
appear to announce the British Ambassador or the Secretary of State 
and I will not have had time to tell you what I came to say and 
which you need to hear. So let me talk first.” 

The President was startled at my temerity, but if he was annoyed 
by it, he concealed it completely. Instead he laughed and said, “All 
light, go ahead. But save me two minutes, because it’s a darned good 

I talked as rapidly as I could, because I was very annoyed at the 
President’s failure to take a more forthright stand against the South- 
ern filibusterers and the steadily increasing wave of lynching. At 
the end of thirteen minutes I looked at my watch and informed the 
President that two minutes remained for his story. 

Again the President laughed and said, “No story could be good 
under these circumstances, but I’ll tell it to you anyhow.” Unfor- 
tunately the story was not as good as those he usually told, but be- 
cause he had been a good sport I simulated as hearty laughter as 
was possible under the circumstances. 

One of the most inexplicable but interesting phenomena to me has 
been the extraordinary attitudes of several Western senators who 

Not Content 'with Preaching 17 1 

were regarded as liberals on economic questions but who have been 
among the most injurious to the Negroes’ cause. Chief among the 
latter number was the late Senator William E. Borah of Idaho, who 
persistently and consistently used his oratory and reputation as an 
authority on constitutional law to oppose federal anti-lynching laws 
and other legislation of that character. 

During the famous seven-week filibuster of 1938, which inciden- 
tally cost the United States over half a million dollars for the opera- 
tion of a Senate which did no work, Senator Borah spoke at length 
to crowded galleries. Charlie Houston and I happened to encounter 
one of the senators who supported the bill— and who possessed an 
excellent legal mind— as he was leaving the Senate chamber. When I 
asked him why he was leaving, he replied that Borah’s arguments 
were so profound that he was unable to follow them. 

Charlie and I asked him why he did not remain on the floor to 
analyze the arguments of the senator from Idaho, several of which 
were exceedingly fallacious. Charlie went on to point out that 
Borah had just been guilty of a dishonest statement in quoting a 
minority opinion of the Supreme Court as the majority opinion. The 
senator was startled at this revelation of the feet of clay of the popu- 
lar Borah. He asked Charlie to prepare a memorandum brief for 
use in answering Borah which was done. The following day when 
the senator devastatingly demolished Borah’s argument, the “lion of 
Idaho” with crimson face fled from the Senate chamber. 

Borah’s persistent enmity to the Negro cost him dearly when he 
sought the Republican nomination for president in 1936. Louis L. 
Redding of Wilmington, Delaware, who had made a brilliant record 
at the Harvard Law School, wrote a devastating analysis of Borah’s 
record which we published in The Crisis. It exposed the succession 
of instances in which Borah had voted on a variety of issues in 
direct opposition to the stand he had taken on the same issues in 
public speeches. The article caused such widespread comment that 
we were forced to reprint it in large quantities. 

The Idaho senator’s campaign for the nomination opened in 
Brooklyn on the bitterly cold night of January 28th. Icy winds from 
the East River cut like jagged knives through the clothing of fifty 
pickets carrying signs attacking Borah for his stand on the Costigan- 

172 A Man Called White 

Wagner And-Lynching Bill. Borah’s face blanched as he stepped 
from die automobile which had brought him to the meeting and 
his shoulders seemed to shrink as with lowered head against the cold 
blasts of weather and disapproval he entered the building. Instead 
of the vigor and boldness which had characterized his speeches in 
the Senate, he faltered and fumbled his words to such an extent that 
the audience and newspapermen looked at one another in amaze- 
ment. Borah’s campaign ended the night it opened. Opposition of 
the solid Negro Republican vote in the Ohio primary shortly after- 
ward wrecked his presidential aspirations and his campaign died 

In 1937 we had to face Negro, as well as white, opposition to a 
measure which we felt strong enough to be effective. A doughty 
Irishman, Congressman Joseph A. Gavagan, had introduced the bill 
which we supported. Congressman Hatton W. Sumners of Texas, 
chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, stubbornly and 
without apology had refused even to permit hearings on the meas- 
ure. Congressman Gavagan placed a discharge petition on the 
speaker’s desk, and we went at the task of securing the necessary 
two hundred and eighteen signatures to bring the bill to the floor 
of the House for debate and vote. When one hundred and seventy 
signatures were obtained Congressman Sumners and his fellow 
Southerners became alarmed and hastily reported out favorably a 
much weaker bill which had been introduced by Arthur W. 
Mitchell, Negro congressman from Chicago. Sumners later told me 
quite frankly that he had not believed that the National Association 
for the Advancement of Colored People would have the nerve to 
oppose passage of a bill introduced by the one Negro member of 

He was wrong. The provisions of the Mitchell Bill were so in- 
nocuous that we were convinced that it would do little if anything 
toward eradicating lynchings or punishing lynchers. We marshaled 
our forces and defeated the Mitchell Bill by a vote of 257 to 122. 
The house passed the Gavagan Bill a week later by a vote of 277 to 
1 19— aided by the Dock HiU, Mississippi, blowtorch lynchings. 

We found that tiie long struggle to arouse public opinion had 

Not Content with Preaching 173 

penetrated areas and created support where a decade before we 
would never have dreamed of receiving such support. Southern 
newspapers like the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Greensboro 
Daily News, the Danville Register, and other leading newspapers 
vigorously and unequivocally urged passage of the bill. Southern 
church, labor, and student bodies, particularly the women of the 
Methodist Episcopal Church South, were equally outspoken. But 
the stronger the Southern and national support became, the more 
vindictive were the filibustering tactics of senators like Connally of 
Texas, Smith of South Carolina, Bilbo of Mississippi, Russell and 
George of Georgia, and McKellar of Tennessee, aided openly by 
Borah and less openly by some of the conservative Republican 
senators. A seven-week filibuster in 1938 was finally successful 
when an emergency relief appropriation bill to feed the unemployed 
was used to displace the anti-lynching bill in the Senate. 

Handshake from a Son 

In 1937 I was honored by being chosen as the twenty-third recipient 
of the Spingarn Medal. The award was made for the work I had 
done in investigating lynchings, lobbying for federal legislation 
against that crime, and for the books and articles which I had 

The Spingarn Medal was initiated in 1914 by Joel E. Spingarn, at 
that time treasurer and later president of the NAACP. It is awarded 
annually to the American Negro who, in the opinion of an independ- 
ent award committee, contributed most in the year or years preced- 
ing his selection in any elevated field of human endeavor. The 
medal is designed, in the words of Mr. Spingarn, to stimulate dis- 
tinguished achievement by Negroes and to call attention of the 
world to such achievement. 

There were several individuals who, in my opinion, were more 
deserving of the award in 1937 than myself. But I was flattered that 
the Award Committee saw fit to include me among that distin- 
guished group of Negro Americans who have received the medal. 
They include the biologist Ernest E. Just; Dr. Louis T. Wright, 
for his work in brain surgery; the distinguished musicians Harry T. 
Burleigh, Roland Hayes, Marian Anderson, and Paul Robeson; edu- 
cators including Dr. John Hope, Mrs. Mary McLeod Bethune, Dr. 
Henry A. Hunt, and Dr. Robert R. Moton; the sociologists and 
writers Dr. W. E. B. DuBois and James Weldon Johnson; the 
novelist Richard Wright; Dr. Percy Julian, the biochemist, who 
originated a method of extracting hormones from soy beans and 
the foam method of extinguishing fire which saved many lives dur- 


Handshake from a Son lyj 

ing the war; William H. Hastie and Thurgood Marshall for their 
leadership in the legal battle for constitutional rights; and others 
who have made notable contributions to society. 

The formal presentation of the medal was made by Governor 
Frank Murphy of Michigan, who today is a distinguished member 
of the United States Supreme Court. He almost made Mother faint 
in astonishment when he wound up his address with the statement 
“and above all else, Walter is a true Christian gentleman.” 

George, as the first-born, was Mother’s favorite, we used to tease 
her, and he in her sight could do no wrong. Because Mother and I 
were both quite strong-willed, we occasionally disagreed, and usu- 
ally such disagreements ended with Mother speculating as to whether 
or not I, of all the children, would wind up less respectable than 
any others of the family. Thus my being publicly extolled as “a true 
Christian gentleman” by a distinguished public figure like Frank 
Murphy seemed to come as a great and pleasant surprise to her. 

The other formal address that evening was delivered by James 
Weldon Johnson, and I shall always be deeply moved by memory 
of it, for two reasons. Jim saved me the embarrassment characteristic 
of such occasions by devoting very little of his speech to laudation of 
the recipient. He discussed instead the philosophy which lay be- 
hind the frequent libel that there are no “leaders” among Negroes. 
Jim pointed out that a single individual could lead an entire race 
in the relatively simple days when that race was seeking to achieve 
a place in an uncomplicated society. He cited Frederick Douglass 
and Booker T. Washington as men who in their day could be the 
final authority for the Negro on questions about all phases of his 

But, Jim pointed out, the greater the progress of a minority like 
the Negro and the more complex society itself became, the more 
necessary became the needs for a variety of leaders, each trained 
and gifted in his particular field. A decade later it is still necessary 
that Jim’s wise words be considered by Negroes themselves and by 
non-Negroes in thinking about the Negro. 

Gladys, Mother, Jane, and Walter sat on the platform that eve- 
ning, and it meant a great deal to me to have them there. Walter, 
whose nickname is “Pidge” from the affectionate le petit pigeon 

176 A Man Called White 

which a French painter and his wife used to call him when he was 
an infant in Villefranche-sur-Mer, wore that evening his first pair 
of long trousers. They were white duck and I am told he concen- 
trated as much on keeping the crease in them as on the presentation 
of the medal. After the award had been made and Governor Mur- 
phy had shaken my hand in congratulation, Walter also rose from 
his seat, carefully adjusted the crease in his trousers, and with solemn 
face walked across the platform to shake hands gravely with me. I 
was as pleased with his doing so as I had been by Frank’s and Jim’s 
speeches of praise. 

Although, quite understandably, he completely overshadowed me 
as far as the audience was concerned, I was delighted that my friend 
Joe Louis was present that evening and also attended a party given 
for Gladys and me later by the John Roxboroughs. 

I am glad that we did not know that evening that Jim’s speech 
was the last he was to make to an NAACP audience. The following 
year while driving in Maine he was killed instantly, and Grace was 
gravely injured, when their automobile was struck by a speeding 

Hugo Black and the NAACP 

In 1937 Senator Hugo L. Black of Alabama was nominated by 
President Roosevelt to fill a vacancy on the United States Supreme 
Court. The position which I took in that bitterly contested case 
brought down upon me a considerable deluge of criticism, the most 
acrimonious of it coming from a Negro politician who declared to 
an annual convention of the Negro Elks that “Walter White has 
sold out his race and ought to be driven out of the race.” 

Senator Black had joined with other Southern senators in fighting 
anti-lynching bills and had participated in filibusters. He had never 
descended, however, to the cruel and cheap vilification of the 
Negro of which most of his Dixie colleagues were guilty. He op- 
posed federal laws against lynching on the grounds that, first, such 
measures were unconstitutional and, second (by somewhat involved 
reasoning), that they might be used against labor unions. Although 
we did not agree with either of Senator Black’s arguments, I 
was convinced that he believed what he said. His superiority of 
intellect and character over most of his colleagues from the South, 
such as Senators Bilbo, Tom Connally of Texas, “Cotton Ed” Smith 
of South Carolina, and Kenneth McKellar of Tennessee, was so 
apparent that he seemed to me to be an advance guard of the new 
South we dreamed of and hoped for when that section of the coun- 
try emancipated itself from the racial, economic, and political bond- 
age which fear, prejudice, and a regional inferiority complex had 

In discussing with Senator Black the federal aid to education bill 
which he had introduced I had learned that he was not only capable 


178 A Mm Called White 

of intellectual growth but was one of the ablest men in the Senate. 
The dead hand of tradition was anathema to him, although he com- 
bined a very shrewd and realistic expediency with his belief that 
many American concepts had to be revised because of changing 
world conditions. Charles Houston and I talked at length one day 
with him about an amendment we had drafted to the educa- 
tion bill to guarantee that moneys so appropriated by the federal 
government should be expended without discrimination in those 
states where segregated schools existed. He opposed such safeguards 
on the ground that they would alienate Southern votes for the bill, 
without which it would have no chance of passage. “Education is 
the answer to the race question, not legislation,” he assured us. 
“When white Southerners are educated and given economic security 
there will be less prejudice against the Negro— fewer lynchings, 
more jobs, greater justice for the Negro.” 

Washington was dumfounded when Senator Black’s name was 
sent to the Senate for the Supreme Court vacancy. At least three 
other candidates were known to be above Senator Black on the list 
which the President was considering. 

I have always believed that President Roosevelt was at least partly 
moved to nominate Senator Black by his resentment against the self- 
ishness of Southern senators. He knew that the Senate almost never 
turned down the nomination of a fellow senator for fear of estab- 
lishing a precedent. Roosevelt knew that Black was more loathed 
by some of his fellow senators from the South than he was by 
Northern Republicans, because Black refused to follow the South- 
ern pattern of conservatism and sectional greed. 

Senator Black was confirmed with great speed by the Senate and 
before an investigation could be made of his allegedly having been 
a member of the Klan. Several of his closest friends in the Senate 
had scoffed at the rumor and assured me that Senator Black had 
never been a member of that infamous organization. 

Revelation by a Pittsburgh newspaper that Senator Black had 
indeed been a member of the Klan at the beginning of his political 
career created a national sensation which is still remembered. Shortly 
afterward the Justice-elect granted an interview in London to Paul 
Ward of the Baltimore Sun in which Mr. Black gave as answer to 

Hugo Black and the NAACF 179 

a question as to whether he agreed with the Klan’s principles the 
statement that his secretary was a Catholic, his law clerk a Jew, 
and one of his closest friends “Walter White of the NAACP.” 

Black’s interview was featured on the front page and commented 
upon editorially in virtually every American newspaper. I was 
swamped by newspaper reporters for comment. It seemed wisest to 
answer briefly and simply that my firsthand acquaintance with the 
new Supreme Court Justice’s views on racial, economic and political 
questions convinced me that Mr. Black would prove to be one of 
the most valued and able members of the Court. 

My statement was used by enemies and critics of the Association 
and myself as basis for attack. But it was gratifying to read a num- 
ber of editorials and letters from persons both white and Negro 
who were willing to reserve judgment on the new member of the 
Supreme Court. The first proof of Justice Black’s freedom from 
race prejudice, now that the necessity of appealing for votes for 
reelection was ended, came in a decision which he read on Lincoln’s 
Birthday, 1938. Three Negroes had been unmercifully tortured in 
Florida to extract a confession to a crime of which they were inno- 
cent. Justice Black’s language was blunt and unequivocal in excori- 
ating the Florida legal procedure in this case; a new trial was or- 
dered, and the defendants were later acquitted. His record during 
his decade on the Supreme Court bench measured up to the high 
standard set in that first decision. 

Marian Anderson and the DAR 

On an early spring afternoon in Washington in March 1939 a 
vivacious, auburn-haired Washington newspaper correspondent, 
Mary Johnston, excitedly called me out of the Senate gallery, where 
I was listening to another filibuster. She had just come from an in- 
terview with the president of the Daughters of the American Rev- 
olution, Mrs. Henry M. Robert, Jr., who had bluntly told Miss 
Johnston that neither Marian Anderson nor any other Negro artist 
would be permitted to appear in Constitution Hall. Indignant at 
this lily-white policy. Miss Johnston wanted me to give her a state- 
ment which she could use in a story. 

I had watched Miss Anderson’s struggle against poverty and 
prejudice with more than ordinary interest. Following the success 
of Roland Hayes, she gave a recital in New York’s Town Hall in 
1925 which might better have been postponed a year or so. That 
evening Marian sang badly, though those who have listened to her 
in later years will find difficulty in believing that anyone with so 
great a voice could ever sing other than perfectly. Perhaps her 
performance that evening was due to stage fright. Some believe that 
the fault was due to the voice teacher with whom she was studying. 
He was a devotee of the bel canto school, and had attempted to 
raise Marian’s voice a full octave. The New York critics that next 
day were harsh, even bitter. Most of them recognized the existence 
of a great voice, but some of them pontifically declared that it had 
been ruined. 

Marian was so heartbroken that she vowed never to sing again. 
Some months later the NAACP was holding its annual conference 


Marian Anderson and the DAR i8i 

in Philadelphia. Roland Hayes was to be presented with the Spin- 
garn Medal and the presentation was to be made by the provost of 
the University of Pennsylvania, the scholarly and eloquent Josiah H. 
Penniman. Harry T. Burleigh, the famous composer and baritone 
of New York’s St. George’s and Temple Emanu-El, was scheduled 
to accept the medal for Roland in absentia, as Roland was then on a 
concert tour in Europe. We invited Marian to sing, but received a 
flat refusal. It took long persuasion to induce her to change her 
mind. But on Spingarn Medal night in crowded Witherspoon HaU 
she sang superbly and was forced to give encore after encore and 
then to take curtain call after curtain call. When at last the applause 
had subsided and the ordeal ended, Marian burst into tears and ex- 
claimed, “Thank God! I’ve got my faith again!” 

Now I welcomed Mary Johnston’s suggestion, but pointed out 
that no one would be surprised to learn that I was indignant at the 
action of the DAR, and suggested that we get statements instead 
from some of Miss Anderson’s famous fellow artists. 

Mary agreed. Utilizing one of the high window sills of the Senate 
gallery as a desk, we drafted a telegram and compiled a list of 
distinguished musicians whom we would telegraph for comments. 
With gratifying speed the replies poured in from Lawrence Tib- 
bett, Leopold Stokowski, Walter Damrosch, Kirsten Flagstad, Geral- 
dine Farrar, and others, all praising Miss Anderson as a great artist 
and expressing indignation and almost disbelief that the DAR had 
taken the action we had reported. 

On my return to New York, I found Sam Hurok, Miss Ander- 
son’s manager, as indignant as I have ever known him to be. He 
proposed that attention be focused on the bigotry of the Daughters 
of the American Revolution by asking Miss Anderson to sing an 
open-air, free concert in Washington. 

The idea was exciting. The most logical place was the Lincoln 
Memorial. Mr. Hurok agreed, and asked Gerald Goode to go to 
Washington with me to see if arrangements could be made. Vir- 
ginia-born Oscar Chapman, Assistant Secretary of the Interior, with 
characteristic intelligence was enormously enthusiastic. He made an 
immediate appointment with Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior, 
and throughout his life an unequivocal battler for justice to the 

1 82 A Man Called White 

Negro. Mr. Ickes was equally excited over the prospect of such a 
demonstration of democracy. President Roosevelt was leaving that 
afternoon for Warm Springs. But Mr. Ickes would not let him leave 
until the President had permitted him to come to the White House 
to tell the story. Hearing it, the President gave his approval and 
told Mr. Ickes to provide whatever facilities were necessary to make 
the concert the greatest event of its kind ever held. 

The engagement for which the Daughters of the American Rev- 
olution had refused the use of Constitution Hall had been arranged 
by Howard University. Since the University was dependent for sup- 
port upon congressional appropriations, Mr. Hurok did not want 
to involve it in a protest which might have widespread repercus- 
sions. He, therefore, made a proposal which was more difficult to 
turn down than any other I have received in all the years of my 
connection with the Association. He suggested that the Lincoln 
Memorial concert be under the auspices of the NAACP. It would 
have meant publicity for the Association which could not have been 
bought for many tens of thousands of dollars. 

But there was a broader issue involved than publicity. Because 
the NAACP is known as a fighting propaganda agency, its sponsor- 
ship of the concert might have created the impression that propa- 
ganda for the Negro was the objective instead of the emphasizing 
of a principle. I, therefore, proposed that the concert be given under 
the most distinguished and nonpartisan auspices possible— namely, 
a sponsoring committee on which would bt asked to serve such 
persons as members of the Cabinet and the Supreme Court, sena- 
tors, congressmen, editors, artists, and others who believed that art 
should know no color line. 

It was natural that we should think instantly of Mrs. Eleanor 
Roosevelt as chairman of such a sponsoring committee. She had 
invited me to her apartment in New York a few days before to ask 
my advice on her resigning from the DAR in protest against the 
treatment accorded Miss Anderson. She had resigned, and this 
focused world-wide attention on the episode. However, I did not 
feel that Mrs. Roosevelt should put herself on the spot, particularly 
since reactionaries in the South were already pillorying her for her 
attitude on the Negro. 

Marian Anderson and the DAR 183 

I therefore went to Mrs. Caroline O’Day, Congresswoman-at- 
large from New York state, whose Southern birth in Savannah, 
Georgia, and whose standing and integrity were such as to make 
her the next logical choice as chairman of the sponsoring committee. 
Mrs. O’Day enthusiastically accepted the chairmanship and turned 
over all the facilities of her office to us for use in sending telegraphic 
invitations to those selected to be asked to serve on the sponsoring 

A few politically minded individuals— chiefly in Congress— were 
cagey. Some had their secretaries wire that the invitations would be 
“brought to the attention” of their employers. A few sought refuge 
in excuses like “my position makes it unwise for me to participate 
in controversial issues of this character.” But the overwhelming 
majority of those invited accepted membership with promptness and 
enthusiasm. Justices of the Supreme Court, top-flight artists of world 
reputation, writers, diplomats. Cabinet officers, congressmen and 
senators, men and women of lesser renown, agreed to serve and 
thereby express their admiration for Miss Anderson and their indig- 
nation at the cavalier treatment the DAR had given her. Seldom in 
history had a more distinguished group of Americans rallied to 
affirmation of democracy. 

Among the sponsors were Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt and many 
other nationally and internationally known figures. 

Gladys, Jane, and Pidge drove down to Washington with me on 
Easter Eve. The weather was crisp and cold but heavy with the 
promise of approaching spring. However, as we approached Wash- 
ington sleet began to fall. With it fell our hopes. We went to bed 
low in spirits because of the snow piling up on the streets outside. 
Weeks of thought and all our hard work seemed about to be 
thwarted by nature. I was almost afraid to look out of the window 
when I awoke early the next morning. I shouted with happiness 
to see the sun. 

The concert was scheduled to begin at five o’clock. We drove to 
the Lincoln Memorial, approaching it from the rear. We had to 
park the car blocks away because every available place near by had 
already been preempted. What a sight greeted us when we came 
around to the front of the Memorial! Every one of the several 

184 A Man Called White 

hundred chairs which had been placed on the lower platform was 
occupied. Seldom in the history even of Washington had a more 
distinguished group of sponsors been gathered. But much more im- 
portant to us was the audience itself. Seventy-five thousand white 
and colored Americans not only from Washington but from cities, 
towns, and viUages within a radius of hundreds of miles had gathered 
at the Memorial of the Great Emancipator to hear a singer of whom 
Toscanini had said: “A voice like yours comes but once in a cen- 

No member of that audience will ever forget the sight of Miss 
Anderson emerging from a small anteroom beside Gaudens’s statue 
of Lincoln. She was apparently calm, but those of us who knew her 
were aware of the great perturbation beneath her serene exterior. 
On her right was gentle Georgia-bom Caroline O’Day. On her left 
was Virginia-born Oscar Chapman. A tremendous wave of applause 
rose from the vast throng, which was silenced only when Miss 
Anderson gently raised her hand to ask that the concert be per- 
mitted to begin. Amplifiers poured out the thunderous chords of the 
opening bars of “America.” Clasping her hands before her Miss 
Anderson poured out in her superb voice “sweet land of liberty” al- 
most as though it was a prayer. 

As the last notes of “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” 
faded away the spell was broken by the rush of the audience to- 
ward Miss Anderson, which almost threatened tragedy. Oscar Chap- 
man plowed through the crowd and directed me to the microphone 
to plead with them not to create a panic. As I did so, but with 
indifferent success, a single figure caught my eye in the mass of 
people below which seemed one of the most important and touching 
^mbols of the occasion. It was a slender black girl dressed in 
somewhat too garishly hued Easter finery. Hers was not the face of 
one who had been the beneficiary of much education or opportu- 
nity. Her hands were particularly noticeable as she thrust them for- 
ward and upward, trying desperately, though she was some distance 
away from Miss Anderson, to touch the singer. They were hands 
which despite their youth had known only the dreary work of 
manual labor. Tears streamed down the girl’s dark face. Her hat 
was askew, but in her eyes flamed hope bordering on ecstacy. Life 

Marian Anderson and the DAR 185 

which had been none too easy for her now held out greater hope 
because one who was also colored and who, like herself, had known 
poverty, privation, and prejudice, had, by her genius, gone a long 
way toward conquering bigotry. If Marian Anderson could do it, 
the girl’s eyes seemed to say, then I can, too. 

Fighters Wanted— No Negroes 

Despite the well-organized and generously financed activities of 
isolationists, it became increasingly apparent toward the end of 1939 
that the United States would inevitably be drawn into the European 
war. This issue was overshadowed in the 1940 presidential elections 
only by the third-term issue. 

On September 14, 1940, America moved closer to the conflict 
when President Roosevelt signed the Selective Service Act. Two 
weeks later, on September 27th, the President complied with a re- 
quest I had made that he receive a delegation consisting of A. Philip 
Randolph, of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; T. Arnold 
Hill, who was at the time acting secretary of the National Urban 
League, and myself, to discuss discrimination against the Negro in 
the armed services and defense industries. The three of us met in the 
NAACP Washington Bureau office on the morning of the appoint- 
ment to discuss the points we wished to make and to decide on 
which of us should act as spokesman. Mr. Hill made the wise 
suggestion that we should put these points in writing and leave a 
memorandum with the President so that there could be no misun- 
derstanding of our position. In the light of subsequent events, this 
proved to be a precaution which saved us from grave embarrass- 

One of the steps most emphatically urged upon the President was 
the immediate and total abolition in the armed services of segrega- 
tion based on race or color. The President listened attentively and 
apparently sympathetically, and assured us that he would look into 
possible methods of lessening, if not destroying, discrimination and 

Fighters Wanted— No Negroes 187 

segregation against Negroes. He promised to write or talk to us 
again after conferring with Cabinet officers and other government 
officials on the problem. But day after day passed without action by 
the White House. 

On October 9th, Stephen Early, White House press secretary, 
handed to newspaper correspondents an official statement of a new 
government policy regarding Negroes in the Army and Navy. Far 
from diminishing jimcrowism, the new plan actually extended it! 
The statement declared that the traditional policy of segregation 
would be continued and that, except for the three already estab- 
lished Negro regiments, all present and future Negro units in the 
Army would be officered by whites. Early, apparently of his own 
initiative, added to the published statement the implication that 
this policy had been discussed with Randolph, Hill, and myself, and 
that we were in agreement with it. 

The statement fell like a bomb on public opinion. Angry and 
puzzled telegrams, long-distance and local telephone calls, and let- 
ters poured in upon us from all parts of the country. It was heart- 
ening to note that the overwhelming majority of these messages 
assumed as a matter of course that the White House statement was 
either inadvertently or deliberately in error. Randolph, Hill, and I 
immediately issued a vigorous denial. 

“We are inexpressibly shocked,” one statement added, “that a 
President of the United States at a time of national peril should sur- 
render so completely to enemies of democracy who would destroy 
national unity by advocating segregation. Official approval by the 
Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of such discrimina- 
tion and segregation is a stab in the back of democracy.” We also 
quoted what we had fortunately declared in our written memoran- 
dum to the President to prove the utter falsehood of Early’s state- 

Our charges proved to be a sensation. Wendell Willkie’s vigorous 
campaign for the Republican nomination and his rugged honesty 
were attracting such crowds and favorable comment that the 
Democrats were becoming increasingly alarmed. Various polls had 
indicated that Willkie was gaining ground and that his popular vote 
would be large. The election appeared to depend on certain pivotal 

1 88 A Man Called White 

states in which the Negro vote would hold the balance of power. 

Northern Democratic leaders were furious at Early for putting 
them on the spot and jeopardizing the Negro vote by this stupid 
blunder. Apprehension was changed to consternation when shortly 
afterward Early kicked in the groin a New York City Negro police- 
man who had been assigned to protect the President, when the 
officer refused to permit Early to cross a police line. Republicans 
gleefully seized upon the incident and saw to it that every town and 
hamlet in the United States where Negroes lived received full details 
of the assault. My telephone rang night and day with calls from 
friends of the President such as Governor Herbert H. Lehman of 
New York, Justice Felix Frankfurter, Anna Rosenberg of the War 
Manpower Commission, and others of lesser fame, who asked what 
could be done to repair the damage Early had done. I told all in- 
quirers that the White House would have to repudiate Early’s 
statement and that he should be dismissed. The former was done— 
the latter was not. Early was forced to issue a retraction of his state- 
ment that Randolph, Hill, and I had approved the new Army policy 
and to make clear we had unequivocally urged abolishing segrega- 
tion. But he insisted the kicking was an “accident.” 

His statement was so unsatisfactory that I told alarmed friends 
of the President that the only way the damage could be repaired 
would be to take steps immediately to end discrimination in the 
armed services and industry. Judge William H. Hastie was ap- 
pointed Civilian Aide to the Secretary of War. Colonel Benjamin 
O. Davis, the only Negro officer of that rank in the Regular Army, 
was promoted to Brigadier General, the first Negro to achieve that 
rank. Colonel Campbell Johnson was appointed Special Aide to the 
Director of Selective Service. These three men worked valiantly in 
the face of heartbreaking opposition and achieved some results. But 
had they been twenty men each, the problems faced could be amel- 
iorated only to a slight degree as long as the basic evil of segregation 
was not ended. 

Disturbed by the situation. Senator Wagner introduced a resolu- 
tion in the Senate to investigate the extent to which minorities were 
being denied employment in defense industries. As usual, this resolu- 
tion was subjected to delays although industrial plants throughout 

Fighters Wanted’-No Negroes 189 

the country were begging for workers. Several Senate leaders ex- 
pressed themselves vigorously as believing that the committee which 
had just been authorized to investigate defense contracts under the 
chairmanship of Senator Harry S. Truman was the logical agency 
to inquire into discrimination and that there was no necessity for 
setting up another investigatory committee. 

This seemed reasonable, so I obtained an appointment with Sena- 
tor Truman. He was quite frank in telling me that although his com- 
mittee had only recently been established the number of hearings 
which had already been scheduled would keep it busy for a period 
of at least six months, and that even then he would be able to hear 
not more than three or four witnesses on the nature and extent of 
discrimination against minorities in defense plants. 

We had already lined up approximately one hundred witnesses 
ranging from persons of national reputation to Negroes who had 
been refused employment despite possession of training. Senate 
Resolution 75, moreover, proposed an investigation of discrimination 
not only in employment but in vocational training, and of racial 
segregation in the Army, Navy, Air Forces, Medical Corps, and 
the operation of the draft law under local draft boards. Despite the 
fact that, in addition to Senator Wagner, two prominent Republican 
senators, Charles L. McNary of Oregon and Arthur Capper of 
Kansas, and a Democratic senator, Prentiss M. Brown of Michigan, 
joined in fighting for passage of the resolution, foes of the measure 
succeeded in keeping it buried in the Senate committee to which 
it had been referred. 

Meanwhile Hitler’s armies were marching across Europe spreading 
destruction and devastation. Nothing seemed able to stop the Japa- 
nese in Asia and the Pacific, But still the doors of war plants, with 
but few exceptions, remained closed to Negroes. Bitterness grew at 
alarming pace throughout the country. Philip Randolph and I 
talked almost daily regarding his proposal that a protest march on 
Washington be staged by Negroes. Because it afforded action, the 
proposal had fired the imagination of the disheartened Negroes 
throughout the nation. The NAACP board of directors voted to 
participate in the march. Official Washington was skeptical at first, 
but later began to show signs of alarm. Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia 

190 A Man Called White 

invited Randolph and me to a conference at City Hall which was 
attended by Mrs. Roosevelt, Aubrey Williams, at that time Director 
of the National Youth Administration, and Anna Rosenberg. Ran- 
dolph and I were asked not to stage the march. 

“You know where I stand,” said Mrs. Roosevelt. “But the attitude 
of the Washington police, most of them Southerners, and the gen- 
eral feeling of Washington itself are such that 1 fear that there may 
be trouble if the march occurs.” 

1 told Mrs. Roosevelt of numerous requests we had made that 
the President receive a delegation to discuss again the steadily 
worsening conditions, which requests had not been granted. After 
she had heard the facts, Mrs. Roosevelt, with her usual honesty, 
agreed. “I will get in touch with my husband immediately because 
I think you are right,” she declared. 

On June i8, 1941, the President received Randolph and myself. 
Robert P. Patterson, at that time Assistant Secretary of War, was 
present in place of Henry L. Stimson, who was out of Washington. 
The late Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy, was there. So were 
William S. Knudsen, president of the General Motors Corporation; 
Sidney Hillman of the Office of Production Management; Aubrey 
Williams, and Anna Rosenberg. 

Randolph and I reiterated our adamant opposition to segregation. 
Judge Patterson agreed with us, but wanted to know how integra- 
tion could be achieved. I pointed out the anachronism of an Army 
presumably trained to fight against Hitler’s theories of race while it 
practiced a similar philosophy. We discussed practical means of 
abolishing segregation. Some years later, he told me that integration 
had seemed impossible to him at the time of the 1941 conference, 
but that he was convinced the methods we then discussed were 
workable when Negro and white soldiers fought together in the 
Battle of the Bulge. 

I pointed out to the President that both the Army and Navy were 
handicapped with inefficient and prejudiced Southern officers in 
die higher ranks; that the backwardness of the South was responsible 
for fewer opportunities to make good in business and the professions 
for whites as well as for Negroes; that Northern graduates from 
West Point and Annapolis frequently did not remain in the Army 

Fighters Wanted— No Negroes 191 

or Navy but got better-paying jobs as engineers and in other voca- 
tions, while Southerners, because of lack of opportunity in the 
South, and because many of the Southerners were lacking in energy 
and ambition, stayed in the Army, where they found a ready-made 

I further pointed out to him that these were some of the same 
men who had virtually lynched General “Billy” Mitchell for his ad- 
vocacy of development of air power, and that they resisted any 
modernization of the armed services, which might conceivably 
prove disastrous. I concluded by telling the President that the sen- 
iority rule in the Army and Navy had thus placed Southerners in 
more than fifty per cent of the top-ranking positions of the armed 
services. Although, of course, some of the Southerners were able 
men and a few of them free of racial prejudice, the majority were 
neither able nor racially democratic in spirit or attitude. 

When I finished, President Roosevelt turned to the Assistant Sec- 
retary of War and asked, “Bob, is that true of the Army?” to which 
Mr. Patterson sadly replied that it was. 

The President then turned to the Secretary of the Navy to ask 
about that service. Mr. Knox replied that he thought the estimate 
far too low for the Navy, but added, “We can’t do a thing about it 
because men live in such intimacy aboard ship that we simply can’t 
enlist Negroes above the rank of messman.” 

“Hold on, Frank,” the President interrupted. “We’ve got some 
good Negro bands in the Navy. Why don’t we make a beginning 
by putting some of these bands aboard battleships? White and Negro 
men aboard ship will thereby learn to know and respect each other 
and then we can move on from there.” Knox promised to look into 
the matter and to see what could be done. But we had the distinct 
conviction that he had no real interest in the matter and had agreed 
only because the President had suggested it. We found this opinion 
correct when more than a year later Knox, when asked by the 
President at another White House conference what he had done 
on the suggestion, admitted that he had done nothing. 

We then turned to discussion of the only reason the conference 
had been called— the threat of a march on Washington. No success 
attended the President’s skillful attempts to dissuade us. The NAACP 

192 A Man Called White 

was the only one of the organizations sponsoring the march which 
had a large mass membership. The President turned to me and asked 
“Walter, how many people will really march?” 

I told him no less than one hundred thousand. The President 
looked me full in the eye for a long time in an obvious effort to find 
out if I were blufiing or exaggerating. Eventually he appeared to 
believe that I meant what I said. 

“What do you want me to do?” he asked. 

Philip Randolph told the President that we wanted him to issue 
an unequivocal executive order to effectuate the speediest possible 
abolition of discrimination in war industries and the armed services. 
William Knudsen had been silent up to this point, although he had 
scrutinized Randolph and me with ill-concealed hostility. He now 
spoke in blunt opposition to any such step by the President, de- 
claring that industry itself would hire such Negroes as it saw fit to 
employ. We told him with equal frankness that one of the worst rec- 
ords of discrimination by any large industry had been that of Gen- 
eral Motors, of which Knudsen was president. Knudsen angrily 
denied this and demanded proof. We told him that we had not 
brought the record of his company with us but that we would be 
very happy to supply him with the facts. I happened to look at the 
President during this interchange and saw that with his love of a 
fight he was enjoying the episode. 

“And send me a copy too of General Motors* record when you 
send it to Bill, won’t you?” he asked, his eyes twinkling. 

Knudsen subsided and took no active part in the discussion there- 
after. The President asked us to go into the Cabinet Room and 
there make a draft of the kind of order we thought he should issue. 
On one side of the table were Randolph and myself and two of Ran- 
dolph’s coworkers, Frank R. Crosswaith of the Harlem Labor 
Committee and Layle Lane, a New York Gty schoolteacher, who 
had not been permitted to sit in on the conference with the Presi- 
dent. With us were Mayor LaGuardia and Aubrey Williams. We 
completed the draft and I returned to New York, to leave a few days 
later for Houston, Texas, to attend the annual conference of the 

Randolph telephoned me there one blistering hot day just as I had 

Fighters Wanted— No Negroes 193 

finished speaking to the summer school session of the Prairie View 
State College for Negroes. Philip told me that there had been steady 
whittling down of the draft we had made in Washington. The 
emasculated version was so weak that I told him that in my opinion 
it was worthless and that we should repudiate it and stage the march. 
Randolph returned to the conference in agreement with this and 
fought doggedly for an order which had at least some power. 

On June 25, 1941, the President issued Executive Order 8802 
specifically banning discrimination on account of race, creed, color, 
or national origin in industries holding government contracts for 
war production and in the training for jobs in war industries. The 
Order set up a Committee on Fair Employment Practices responsible 
only to the President to investigate and take corrective action 
against discrimination. 

Mark Ethridge of the Louisville Courier~Journal was named by 
President Roosevelt as chairman. Earl B. Dickerson, Negro lawyer 
and alderman of Chicago; David Samoff, president of the Radio 
Corporation of America; Presidents Philip Murray of the CIO and 
William Green of the AFL, and Milton P. Webster, vice-president 
of the Sleeping Car Porters, were chosen as members of the com- 

Immediately sniping at the Committee began from politicians, un- 
friendly newspapers, and hostile employers and labor unions who 
were determined to continue their practice of discrimination despite 
the desperate need for workers. An excellent and devoted staff, 
with former Governor of the Virgin Islands Lawrence Cramer as 
director, and George M. Johnson, formerly of the University of 
California and Howard University Law Schools, as associate direc- 
tor, began the seemingly impossible task of breaking down racial 
barriers. Their budget was at no time sufiicient to the needs of the 
committee. Funds were supplied from the contingent fund of the 
President. However, more progress was made by the FEPC tov/ard 
employment on the basis of ability in the face of racial and religious 
discrimination than at any other period in American history. 

When, in 1944, enemies of the FEPC succeeded in placing the 
agency under the control of Congress, the death knell of the com- 
mittee was sounded. A relentless filibuster from January 17 to 

194 ^ Man Called White 

Febniacy 8, 1946, defeated efforts to secure appropriations to con- 
tinue its work. Thus ended the career of the agency which, more 
than any other, established the right of minority Americans to work 
at their skills and thereby increased their faith in the democratic 

Mother Stops Climbing Stairs 

George wrote Mother during the spring of 1940 that he had ar- 
ranged a Southern speaking tour which would enable him to stop 
off in Atlanta to spend a day with her. A change in his schedule en- 
abled him to reach there a day early. As his taxicab drew up in front 
of the house on Houston Street, the vision which greeted him made 
him wish he were elsewhere. For Mother, clad in a gingham dress 
and sunbonnet, was perched perilously at the top of a swaying 
and shaky ladder, touching up with a paintbrush some spots under 
the eaves of the second story of the house. George was afraid to 
call out to her, as he feared the excitement of seeing him would 
cause her to lose her balance and come toppling down the thirty or 
more feet to the ground. Instead, he left quietly and got a neighbor, 
who induced her to descend in safety and only then let her sec that 
he had arrived. 

When he returned to New York he told me how Mother had 
berated him for arriving ahead of schedule, before she had com- 
pleted the preparations for his visit. Over our protests. Mother, 
with the strong determination which had carried her through life, 
had refused to leave the large old house in which she now carried 
on a lonely existence to come live with one of us. 

“All you children were bom here, and I am going to stay right 
here until they carry me out,” she told us, and her words brooked 
no argument. , 

A few weeks later Mother mentioned in a letter an attack of 
indigestion she had suffered, but dismissed the illness as being of such 
slight and temporary importance that doses of baking soda and 

196 A Man Called White 

Epsom salts, to which she was addicted, had “straightened her out.” 

Gladys and the children were spending the summer at Northamp- 
ton, Massachusetts, and I stopped off there on my way back from 
a trip to Chicago. Just as I entered the house my brother-in-law, 
Eugene Martin, telephoned from Atlanta that “your mo^ier has just 
left us.” She died as she had lived— with courage. My sister Olive 
had sent Mother some soup that afternoon by her husband. Will. 
He and Eugene had stopped on the front porch to talk with her, 
and she casually mentioned a recurrence of the pain in her chest. 
Suddenly her lips became blue and she rose to her feet, somewhat 
unsteadily, and told Eugene and Will that she thought she ought to 
go upstairs and lie down. Alarmed, my two brothers-in-law offered 
to carry her up the stairs, but Mother dismissed such an intimation 
of weakness contemptuously. 

“I’ve been climbing stairs for seventy years and I’m still able to 
do so under my own power,” she said proudly and rejected their 
offer of help. 

Feminine to the last. Mother conveniently forgot some nine years 
which should have been added to the seventy she confessed. She 
knew, although she would never admit it, that her illness was more 
serious than indigestion. When Olive and Helen got her comfort- 
ably into bed she mustered her fast-failing strength to give direc- 
tions about routine household matters. 

“The gas, electric light, and water bills with the money to pay 
them are in the upper right-hand drawer of my dresser there— be 
sure and pay them tomorrow when they are due,” she told them. 
“And the new gray dress I bought for the Twelve Club is good 
enough to bury me in. Use it and don’t waste money on a new one.” 

Just then Mother noticed Mae, the maid, standing at the foot of 
the bed silently weeping. Mother asked her anxiously if she had 
eaten, and when Mae, choking back her grief, replied that she did 
not want any food. Mother sharply insisted that she go downstairs 
immediately, heat up the soup Will had brought, and drink it. 

“I’m afraid I won’t be needing it,” Mother said somewhat regret- 
fully, because she loved Olive’s excellent cooking. “You’ll find 
fruit in the icebox, and some fresh rolls in the breadbox which I 
won’t be needing either.” 

Mother Stops Climbing Stairs 197 

She looked at the grieved faces around the bed and asked all of 
them except Olive and Helen to leave. The pain in her heart by now 
was so intense that even the drug which Dr. Slater had given her to 
ease it was obviously having little effect. When the others had left 
the room Mother voiced for the last time her very great pride of 
spirit and person. 

“Don’t let any undertaker touch me— you two girls dress me 
for burial. And do take care of my baby and see that she gets well” 
—referring to Madeline, who was ill in New York. 

She closed her eyes and never opened them again. 

Wendell Willkie 
and the Good Fight 

I knew Wendell Willkie only during the last few years of his ex- 
traordinary life. Our meeting, which grew into one of the three or 
four closest and richest friendships of my life, developed out of 
the increasing political strength and independence of the Negro 

An important figure in one of America’s greatest industrial cor- 
porations telephoned me during the spring of 1940 to ask if he 
could come to see me. When he arrived he told me of his deep 
interest in the election of Mr. Willkie as president, though it was 
at times difficult to determine whether he was for Willkie or merely 
against Roosevelt. My visitor was courteous and almost ingratiating. 
Over cocktails he made the usual offers of jobs for myself and 
other Negroes if I would support Willkie and he were elected. My 
telling him that the NAACP was a nonpartisan and nonpolitical or- 
ganization seemed to be without effect. 

He proposed to me that I fly out to Chicago in a private plane and 
ride into New York with Willkie on his campaign trip, with, of 
course, newsreel shots and photographs of the two of us apparently 
in agreement. In this way, he assured me, I would not be violating 
the Association’s rule against political activity by any of its per- 
sonnel. He seemed quite startled when I refused to participate in 
any such attempt to evade the Association policy. He was even more 
st^ed when I informed him that although I did not like many of 
die elements in the Democradc Party, particularly the and-Negro 


Wendell Willkie and the Good Fight 199 

Southern wing, I had far more faith in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s devo- 
tion to the common man, and even more in Mrs. Roosevelt’s sin- 
cerity, than in Mr. Willkie or any other candidate who could ob- 
tain the nomination of a party so committed to the interests of big 

This was the first of a number of attempts to inveigle me into 
participation in the election campaign. The situation became so 
difficult that I was almost afraid to answer the telephone either at 
the office or at home lest it be another importuning politician whose 
pleas it would require much time and energy to shake off. 

A few weeks after the election I received a very friendly note 
from Mr. Willkie inviting me to have luncheon with him. He stated 
that he was anxious to meet “the fellow” who had refused to meet 
him during the campaign. We tried unsuccessfully to arrange a mu- 
tually convenient date, finally abandoning the effort after several 
failures. And then one night I saw him at a private dinner at the 
Waldorf-Astoria given in honor of a Catholic bishop. I approached 
Mr. Willkie and introduced myself. Before the evening was over a 
friendship developed which grew steadily in warmth and meaning 
to me to the day of his untimely death. 

As we were discussing, at luncheon not long afterward, the inside 
story of the fight Mr. Willkie had made as counsel to the motion 
picture industry in the Senate hearings, I pointed out that the most 
widely circulated medium yet devised to reach the minds and emo- 
tions of people all over America and the world was perpetuating 
and spreading dangerous and harmful stereotypes of the Negro. 

Wendell’s (he insisted on our using each other’s first names the 
second time we met) response was immediate. 

“I ought to have a tiny bit of influence right now—I don’t know 
how long it will last— with the moving picture people. Let’s go out 
to Hollywood and talk with the more intelligent people in the in- 
dustry to see what can be done to change this situation,” he said. 

Naturally I was delighted to have the help of so powerful an 
ally, but knowing how busy he was I did not dare hope that he 
could find the time to go to California for this purpose. However, 
not long afterward he telephoned me to say that he had been asked 


A Man Called White 
to speak at the Annual Award dinner of the Motion Picture 
Academy of the Arts and Sciences. 

“Let’s kill two birds with one stone,” he suggested. “Let me know 
what day will be convenient for you to go to Hollywood, and I 
will tell them that I can speak on that day, since they have left 
the date up to me.” We both enjoyed the idea of a Negro, secretary 
of a “radical” organization like the NAACP, thus setting the date 
for movie stars to receive their “Oscars,” which Wendell called their 

Late in the afternoon of the day we arrived in Los Angeles, Wal- 
ter Wanger and Darryl Zanuck of Twentieth Century-Fox called 
and the four of us discussed ways and means of presenting to motion 
picture producers, writers, directors, and actors the justice of pic- 
turing the Negro as a normal human being instead of as a mon- 

A few hours later we entered the Biltmore Bowl dining room, 
which was packed to the point of suffocation with movie stars and 
figures of the industry. When Willkie spoke he told his “moral 
degradation” story, which brought down the house. 

It will be remembered that not long after the 1940 election Will- 
kie had come out vigorously in support of Roosevelt’s foreign policy 
program, which step brought to light the venom and reaction which 
had motivated some of his erstwhile supporters. Following his pro- 
nouncement he had received a lengthy letter, written on expensive 
stationery, from a wealthy woman in California. She indignantly re- 
lated how she had contributed generously to the Willkie campaign 
fund and had worked assiduously in his behalf. Her epistolary rage 
mounted in denunciation of his post-election agreement with “that 
man in the White House.” “As long as I live I will never contribute 
another penny to you or anything with which you are connected,” 
she stormed. “I know not what others may think of you, but as for 
myself, it would take an act of Divine Providence to raise you to 
the level of moral degradation.” 

Wendell and I went back to Hollywood again in 1942, when he 
accepted our invitation to deliver the principal address at the closing 
mass meeting of the Thirty-first Annual Conference of the NAACP. 

Walter Wanger and Darryl Zanuck were hosts at a magnificent 


Wendell Willkie and the Good Fight 
luncheon in the Caf6 de Paris on the Twentieth Century-Fox lot. To 
it they invited what one of the motion picture trade journals called 
one of the most select groups of producers, writers, directors, and 
heads of the important motion picture guilds ever assembled in the 
moving picture capital. 

Walter Wanger introduced me to make the opening statement. 
I knew that the boards of censorship in Southern states, through 
their objection to the appearance of any Negro in films except as a 
comic or menial figure, had frightened most motion picture pro- 
ducers into slavish following of these stereotypes. I was aware of the 
dependence of the moving picture industry on mass consumption 
and of its increasing fear, born of such attacks, of any reforms which 
might cut down box-office returns. 

I attempted as best I could to allay these doubts, and at the same 
time to present without equivocation the resentment of colored 
peoples at home and abroad against racial caricatures. I pointed out 
that we did not ask that Negroes be pictured as superhuman heroes, 
because they, like all humans, are made of weaknesses as well as 
strengths. I urged Hollywood to have courage enough to shake off 
its fears and taboos and to depict the Negro in films as a normal 
human being and an integral part of the life of America and the 

Willkie’s speech was hard-hitting and uncompromising. He re- 
minded the audience that on his recent world tour he had found 
growing resentment, not only against the motion picture industry 
but against America itself, because American films almost invariably 
caricatured people with dark skins. He reminded his audience that, 
whether they wished it or not, one world had come into existence, 
and that the fate of every human being was inextricably tied up with 
the outcome of the war which was swiftly enveloping the globe. 
And then he bluntly pointed out that many of the persons respon- 
sible for Hollywood films belonged to a racial and religious group 
which had been the target of Hitler, and that they should be the last 
to be guilty of doing to another minority the things which had been 
done to them. Few men could have made this latter statement with- 
out giving offense. Not only was no perceptible offense taken, but, 
instead, Willkie’s frank admonition was cheered. His earnestness. 

202 A Man Called White 

his integrity, and his complete sincerity had won over his audience. 

Many of the guests remained long after the luncheon was over to 
discuss ways of implementing the proposals we had made. I had 
been warned— not without reason, as I discovered— that Hollywood 
acquired a new enthusiasm whenever a protagonist for a cause came 
to the film capital, only to lose it and acquire another as soon as a 
new protagonist arrived. But we found a surprising number of 
writers, directors, actors, and actresses, and a smaller number of 
producers, who were genuinely disturbed by the situation and eager 
to find practical ways of solving it. 

One or two producers and several writers and directors told us 
that many of the mistakes they had made were errors of the head 
rather than of the heart, and arose from the lack of unbiased and 
authoritative sources of information. Two producers suggested that 
the NAACP establish a Hollywood bureau for which the funds 
would be contributed by producers. Willkie and I doubted the wis- 
dom of this, because we knew that he who pays the piper calls the 
tune. It is still the hope of the NAACP to establish an independent 
Hollywood bureau so competently and objectively conducted as to 
make it influential in changing the movie stereotypes of Negroes 
which influence scores of millions of human beings all over the 

As long as Wendell Willkie lived, the trend set by the 1942 
luncheon continued. A noticeable diminution of objectional Negro 
roles could be observed. A few innovations were to be noted in the 
films made by Warner Brothers, Twentieth Century-Fox, and 
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. But with the tragedy of Willkie’s death in 
1944 most of those responsible in Hollywood for changing the pat- 
tern appeared to feel that the pressure upon them had been removed. 

Willkie and I were confronted constantly with evidence of the 
terrifying power to intimidate Hollywood which a few people pos- 
sessed. Repeatedly producers told us frankly that they dared not risk 
offending boards of censorship in Southern states. We learned how 
one man acting as a censorship board to pass on the suitability of 
pictures for five states belligerently objected to any Negroes in mov- 
ing picture films unless they played roles in conformity with his 
own prejudices. Although the five states produced only 1.25 per 

Wendell Willkie and the Good Fight 203 

cent of the estimated income from any picture made in Hollywood, 
the prejudices of this one octogenarian censor were kept constantly 
in mind by moving picture makers whenever a Negro character 
was involved. In this fashion, one man was determining what the 
entire world would be permitted to learn about the Negro through 
the medium of American movies. 

But my friendship with Wendell Willkie did not exist only on the 
basis of what we sought to do about the presentation of the Negro 
in films. In 1943 he expressed a desire to talk frankly, and oS the 
record, with a group of Negroes who had vision and character. 
Gladys and I invited such a group to meet him at our home in 
Harlem. Bill Hastie and George Johnson, then of Washington, Ira 
Lewis of the Pittsburgh Courier ^ and about thirty others were there. 

Fortunately two of the five rooms of our apartment are so ar- 
ranged as to make one fairly large room, but even its capacity was 
taxed. Wendell came early, arranged himself in a comfortable chair, 
and called for a Scotch and soda. With him as its focal point, the 
conversation sparkled and crackled like electricity. We discussed, 
of course, the war. Wendell told us intimate details of recent events 
in England, Europe, Russia, Africa, and Asia, where he had recently 
visited. It was fascinating to watch the eager faces of men who sat 
on every available chair and on the floor as they matched wits and 
information with the man who also was striving to find answers to 
questions which had to be solved to save the world from chaos. 

As we learned to know each other, Willkie and I saw more and 
more of each other, and we often talked of his political points of 
view. One day, as we were discussing in his office a suggestion that 
he be a candidate for the governorship of New York, he expressed 
the conviction which ruled his thinking during the last months of 
his life. He was leaning back in his chair, with his feet on the desk. 
It was a little startling in that luxurious office to notice that his 
shoes were half-soled. He watched an outbound troop ship, dreary 
with the dull gray paint of war, its deck crowded with young Amer- 
icans pathetically absorbing their last view of New York harbor. 

“Look at those kids out there on that ship,” he said. “I believe 
I can do more in fighting for what they believe and for what they 
deserve by staying out of public office, even including the presi- 

204 A Man Called White 

dency. I would gladly say to hell with the presidency and all politi- 
cal offices if I felt I could do more as an individual than as governor 
or president or anything else.” 

Such a statement made by any other man in public life would 
have sounded hypocritical. But Wendell Willkie believed implicitly 
what he had just said. If any proof were needed of his sincerity, that 
proof was supplied a few months later when he and 1 had breakfast 
together in a Western state on the day that he had had a conference 
with the governor. That evening Wendell returned to his hotel 
in more dejected spirit than I had ever seen him. Wearily he asked 
me whether I had ever heard a more brazen proposal than the one 
which had been made to him that day. This governor was a “fa- 
vorite son” of a state with a sizable bloc of electoral votes. He had 
proposed that if Wendell would promise him a certain post in 
the Cabinet if elected, the governor would deliver his state’s electoral 
votes to Wendell. 

“What did you tell him?” I asked. 

“I told him to go to hell,” Wendell replied, his anger mounting 
again. “I have never made a deal yet and I’ll be God-damned if 
I’ll make one now, even to be president of the United States.” I 
telephoned room service for two double Scotches to celebrate the 
decision and to alleviate his weariness and disgust. 

Some sentimental persons attributed Willkie’s death in 1944 to a 
broken heart over his repudiation by his party and his apparent fail- 
ure to unite effectively the liberal elements among the Republicans. 
If he had a broken heart I saw no evidence of it. Instead he appeared 
to me to be happier, and more determined to fight for his ideals, now 
that he was free of any suspicion of doing and saying things solely 
for political reasons. 

None of us believed that his last illness was as serious as it turned 
out to be. He had just written an article for Colliefs dealing with the 
Negro question. He and I had been asked by a publisher to do a 
book together dealing with the race problem as a world issue of 
prime importance which had to be faced and met if lasting peace 
were to be attained. A day or two before he died I received a note 
from him written in the hospital. He said that he was being held 
diere for no good reason but that he hoped to “escape” in a few 

Wendell Willkie and the Good Fight 205 

days. “Then let’s get together for a couple of cocktails to discuss 
the book, though God alone knows when either you or I will ever 
get the time to write a book.” He added a postscript. “Whatever you 
are writing in seclusion, for my sake please give them hell.” He was 
referring to A Rising Wind, the story of my experiences in the Eu- 
ropean, North African, and Italian theaters of war which I was then 
writing against a deadline before leaving for the Pacific. 

I telephoned Ruth Lipper Saturday afternoon before leaving to 
speak in Charleston, West Virginia, on Sunday, October 8, 1944. 
Ruth told me that she had just been told at the hospital that WiU- 
kie’s fever had subsided and that his doctors believed he would be 
able to leave the hospital within a few days. 

The next morning I stepped off the train at Charleston to be told 
by President John W. Davis of the West Virginia State College 
that Wendell Willkie had died during the night. 

The Fifth Estate 

One of the first objects of criticism and attack after Pearl Harbor 
was the Negro press. For a time it appeared possible that an hysteri- 
cal use of charges of “sedition” and “interference with the war 
effort,” as well as denial of newsprint to these papers, would be used 
to cripple or drive them out of existence. John Temple Graves of 
Birmingham, Alabama, wrote a blistering attack on the Negro 
press in the Virgima Quarterly Review. Mr. Graves’ article was 
quoted widely and commented upon editorially, particularly in the 
Southern press. His allegation thereby gained a circulation far in 
excess of that usual to material in a university publication. 

Warren Brown wrote another attack which appeared first in the 
Saturday Review of Literature and later in the Readefs Digest. 
Brown, a Negro, had been well educated through the generosity of 
certain philanthropic agencies which sought to soft-pedal attacks by 
Negroes on racial proscription. Great emphasis was placed on 
Brown’s race in order to prove that both Negro and white Ameri- 
cans believed the Negro press to be irresponsible, inaccurate, and 

More fuel was added to the mounting flames by an article in the 
Atlantic Monthly written by Virginius Dabney, editor of the Rich- 
mond Times-Dispatch. Mr. Dabney titled his article “Nearer and 
Nearer the Precipice.” He passed over lightly and mildly legitimate 
Negro grievances and blamed virtually all friction between whites 
and Negroes in America on the Negro press. 

It must be admitted in all truth that there was some justification 
for criticisms by these three writers and others. Either because of 


The Fifth Estate 207 

insuiSicient staff or carelessness, too many of these papers would 
publish insufficiently corroborated stories, and sometimes printed 
rumor for truth. Even when the facts had been carefully checked 
flamboyant headlines were placed over the stories, sometimes with 
incorrect emphasis. Lynchings, assaults on Negro soldiers, refusals 
of war plants to employ colored workers, and similar items were 
given preference over less sensational news. 

But the fault was far from being that of the Negro press alone. 
These papers are relied upon by Negroes for the news they cannot 
find in white newspapers. If they specialized in seeking out and 
publishing stories about racial discrimination it was because their 
readers wanted and expected them to perform this service, generally 
ignored by the white press. And what was generally overlooked by 
critics was that they were only following, with comparative re- 
straint, a pattern which had long been set for them by the white 
press. The worst distortions in the Negro press could not equal the 
inflammatory misrepresentations which had been given the public 
by anti-Negro white papers, especially in the South, for years. As 
is so often the case, a minority had followed, to a limited extent, the 
bad leadership of a part of a powerful majority. 

I was brought into this situation almost by accident. As I was 
leaving his office one day in December of 1942 President Roosevelt 
called me back to say that pressure was being brought to bear on 
him and the Department of Justice to indict the editors of some of 
the more flamboyant Negro newspapers for “sedition” and “interfer- 
ence with the war effort.” The idea to me was fantastic and absurd. 
I asked the President what evidence, if any, there was that any of 
the editors he mentioned were guilty of relations with any foreign 
power, or of any act which could be interpreted as treasonable, 
under the wise and tolerant provisions of the Constitution. The 
President told me he had seen no evidence which would stand up 
in court, but that the stories which had been published in a few of 
the papers were so clearly biased and inaccurate that some of the 
men high in government believed that convictions could be secured. 

I urged upon the President a remedy quite different from that 
offered by the courts. I told him that decisive action to abolish 
segregation in the armed services and to end discrimination in gov- 

2o8 a Mm Called White 

emment-financed war industries would transform these papers from 
critics of the war effort into enthusiastic supporters. I suggested that 
it would be most revealing to investigate the records of the govern- 
ment officials who were demanding the suppression of the Negro 
press, and if he would invite some Negro editors to the White 
House, along with the white newspaper and magazine editors whom 
he occasionally asked to come in for pep talks, he would accomplish 
a great deal. 

The President agreed to do this, but suggested that a good deal 
more needed to be done in addition to such conferences. Appar- 
ently the President called in his advisers and ordered them to aban- 
don the absurd and dangerous proposal to charge Negro editors 
with disloyalty. But those who wanted to silence these newspapers 
were not to be discouraged. A new device was concocted shortly 
afterward— sharp limitation or complete denial of newsprint to 
Negro newspapers which exposed or attacked discrimination. When 
I had gathered the facts I presented them to the President, who 
promptly squelched this attempt. 

In the meantime we called a conference at our office in New 
York on January 23, 1943, to which were invited editors of the 
twenty-four largest Negro newspapers, whose combined circula- 
tion totaled close to three million copies weekly. 

We talked frankly. We offered the services of our Washington 
Bureau to check without cost any story or statement originating in 
the capital. Cooperative use of the facilities of the papers were 
devised, which resulted in the formation not long afterward of the 
Negro Newspaper Publishers Association. A code of journalistic 
ethics was planned and more rigid methods of checking the details 
of stories prior to publication were perfected. 

Almost immediate results were to be observed. Sensationalism was 
curbed in the treatment of news with little loss of militancy in at- 
tacking discrimination. Racial hypersensitiveness was lessened at 
least to the extent of playing up more fully and prominently con- 
structive acts by whites against discrimination. Objectionable or 
questionable advertising of love powders, dream books, and luck 
stones, which a few of the papers continued to accept, almost totally 

The Fifth Estate 209 

Some amusing developments, however, so far as the NAACP is 
concerned, were to be observed among some of the editors after the 
suggestion had been put into effect that these editors be invited to 
conferences at the White House and in the oflSces of Cabinet offi- 
cials in Washington. Armed with a sense of new importance, a few 
of the editors proposed to take over “leadership” by forming a new 
organization, which editors would head, to replace the NAACP. 
One of the editors asserted belligerently at a meeting of the Negro 
Newspaper Publishers Association that the Negro press had “made” 
the NAACP, and why therefore should editors pay any attention to 
what “Walter White says, because there are a dozen of us here who 
make many times as much money as he does.” We noticed also that 
in many instances the Association’s name was deleted from stories 
of important legal or other victories which had been won through 
its efforts. 

In many ways the establishment and rise of the Negro press in 
America has been a miracle in journalism. Until quite recently 
no Negro could obtain employment as reporter, editor, or crafts- 
man on any white daily newspaper or magazine. The Negro thereby 
had been denied the opportunity to learn the newspaper trade by 
working at it. A few Negroes have graduated from schools of 
journalism and more are taking such courses as opportunities on both 
Negro and white publications increase. But as a rule the Negro 
newspaperman has had to establish his own practices and standards, 
and the results have not always been uniformly good. 

Even more disadvantageous has been the difficulty the Negro 
newspaper publisher has experienced in obtaining credit for the 
purchase of expensive printing and other machinery. Along with 
this handicap has been the fact that his revenue from advertising 
has been microscopic. The result has been the perpetuation in the 
Negro press of personal journalism, with its advantages and disad- 
vantages, which has almost totally disappeared from the white press. 

The Negro press has been and is today the only large segment 
of American journalism whose major support comes from its readers 
rather than its advertisers. It has therefore of necessity remained 
more responsive to its readers’ wishes than has any other. It is 
probable that this situation will not last much longer, first, because 

210 A Man Called White 

advertisers are awakening to the fact which they have hitherto 
ignored, that Negroes spend in excess of ten billion dollars annually, 
and, second, because of the increasing costs of production. 

With its obvious faults, the Negro press is a phenomenon of im- 
mense significance to the whole United States as well as to the 
Negro minority. It is one of the products of segregation. Its short- 
comings are in considerable degree the result of the proscription 
which it and Negroes as a whole have suffered. Its function as a 
watchdog of Negro interests has given it power and influence which 
will continue and increase as long as prejudice and proscription 
plague the Negro. 

Turn to the Left at Detroit 

I was involved in the famous Ford strike of 1941, and thereby hangs 
a tale of the increasing importance of the Negro worker in the 
American industrial scene. In 1919 Negro steel workers had been 
used successfully as strikebreakers. At that time most of the Amer- 
ican Federation of Labor unions and the four railroad brotherhoods 
barred Negroes from membership. Only a few heavy-industry 
unions such as mine workers and longshoremen admitted colored 
workers. The inevitable result of exclusion had been a steadily grow- 
ing antagonism which worked to the disadvantage of organized 
labor and the Negro until the Committee on Industrial Organization 
was formed in 1935. As head of the United Mine Workers John L. 
Lewis had recognized no color line, and the incorporation of that 
philosophy in the CIO offered the first reason for confidence of 
Negro workers in labor unions. 

TTie first real test of the CIO came in the attempt to organize 
Ford workers. Henry Ford had provided for Negroes the first op- 
portunity for employment in considerable numbers above the rank 
of porter or common laborer in any large-scale American industry. 

The Ford public relations and employment departments had quite 
cleverly capitalized upon this departure from the traditional pattern 
of employment. Liaison was established between the Ford employ- 
ment office and large Negro churches in Detroit. Whenever there 
was need for labor the pastors of these churches would be tele- 
phoned that there were openings and that applicants bearing letters 
from the clergymen of these churches would be given special con- 
sideration. It was natural that communicants who had received cm- 

212 A Man Called White 

ployment throu^ intercession of their pastors would contribute 
more generously to support of their churches, and many Negro 
ministers cooperated fully. But it inevitably provided a serious con- 
flict when a decision had to be made by Negroes, who constituted a 
sizable percentage of Ford employees, between Ford and the United 
Automobile Workers of the CIO. 

The first serious manifestation of the cleavage in Negro thinking 
I encountered was the dilemma I faced when I arrived in Detroit in 
June 1937 for the annual conference of the NAACP. Tired and 
soiled by the long automobile drive from New York, we reached 
Detroit to be confronted by an angry and belligerent delegation of 
Negro ministers who informed me that unless Homer L. Martin, 
at that time president of the United Automobile Workers, was re- 
moved from the program, or a representative of the Ford Motor 
Company placed on the program with Martin to answer whatever 
statements he made, these ministers would order their parishioners to 
boycott the convention. 

Tlic public relations department of the Ford Motor Company 
was much more subtle— and intelligent. They offered to place at 
the disposal of the national officers of the NAACP a fleet of shiny 
new cars for our convenience during the convention. 

We decided not to use the cars. 

Perhaps if I had been less exhausted from the heat and the long 
trip I might have been more respectful to the Negro ministers. But 
I was tired and wanted nothing on earth so much as a bath. I re- 
sented the dictatorial belligerence of the ministers and curtly told 
them that “the law compelling anyone to attend an NAACP meet- 
ing had long since been repealed,” and that they could do whatever 
they pleased about boycotting our meetings. Despite— or perhaps 
because of— their attacks, the auditorium in which Homer Martin 
spoke was not large enough to accommodate more than one-third 
of those who wished to attend the meeting. 

It was not until four years later that the United Automobile 
Workers were strong enough to challenge Henry Ford’s determina- 
tion to permit neither Wall Street nor any labor union to have any 
say about the policies of the Ford Motor Company. 

In the interim Mrs. Edsel Ford had become interested in the 

Turn to the Left at Detroit 213 

NAACP through her friendship with Mary White Ovington. The 
Edsel Fords and Miss Ovington had been neighbors at Seal Harbor, 
Maine, Edsel Ford had shared his wife’s interest and had made an 
annual contribution to the NAACP from a special bank account, 
so as not to disturb or give offense to his father, who would prob- 
ably not have approved. 

When the Ford strike broke in 1941 the Negro issue was brought 
decisively into the picture and there was general recognition of the 
profound effect it would have upon the eventual outcome. A con- 
siderable percentage of Negro Ford employees refused to go out on 
strike. Other Negroes were rushed into the plant as strikebreakers 
as Harry Bennett marshaled his forces, and they were told that they 
would be “paid around the clock” for no more arduous task than 
punching a time clock every eight hours. An ugly situation of 
dangerous proportions swiftly developed. Many of the Ford workers 
were Southern whites who had brought to Detroit the traditional 
racial prejudices of Mississippi and other Southern states. 

The ominous atmosphere seemed almost a tangible thing when I 
arrived in Detroit. Eddie Levinson, formerly the labor editor of 
the New York Evening Post and then publicity director of the 
UAW-CIO, and Dr. James J. McClendon, president of our Detroit 
branch, met me at the airport. We drove to the Statler Hotel, where 
R. J. Thomas, president of the UAW-CIO, George Addes, and 
other union officials were waiting. They began promptly to tell me 
the dolorous story of how the strike was threatened with failure 
because of the Negro workers. The union officials, with the excep- 
tion of Eddie Levinson, put almost the entire responsibility upon 
the Negro ministers. 

I asked Thomas what steps had been taken by the union to con- 
vince Negro Ford workers that it was to their advantage to join 
the union. I asked him what proof had been offered that the union’s 
seniority rule would not be utilized to victimize Negro workers as 
soon as employment peaks declined. 

Thomas was embarrassed but honest in his reply. 

“We’ve got so many Southern whites in the Ford plant, we’ve 
been afraid to conduct an open campaign to recruit Negro mem- 

214 ^ Called White 

bers in the union,” he admitted. “We’ve sent organizers to the homes 

of Negroes to talk to them privately,” he added. 

I pointed out to the union leaders that whatever may have been 
the wisdom of a surreptitious campaign of this character in the past, 
they were now faced with the grim reality of losing the strike unless 
they could induce Negro workers to leave the Ford plant at River 
Rouge by demonstrations that these workers would not be double- 
crossed. I learned that the union leaders were less disturbed by 
the numbers of Negroes who distrusted the union than by the fear 
that rioting would force the governor to call out troops. It was 
believed not only by the union but also by the public generally 
that some of the Ford company officials were counting on the 
development of sufficient violence to necessitate the calling of troops 
and that the troops would break the strike. 

We decided that the most immediately effective way for the 
union to make clear its position would be to place advertisments in 
the Detroit newspapers, setting forth in unequivocal terms the 
union’s position toward Negro workers. The following day an 
advertisement in both white and colored newspapers stated that 
under a UAW-CIO contract Negro Ford workers would receive 
the same pay as whites, and that Negroes would lose no privileges 
by joining the union, but on the contrary would enjoy greater 
security and receive promotions on the basis of seniority. 

Since as far as we knew no newspapers were getting into the River 
Rouge plant, our next problem was that of getting the union’s 
pledges to the Negro workers who had been in the plant since the 
inception of the strike. 

But even before that task was undertaken another hurdle had to 
be surmounted— the attitude of the executive committee of our De- 
troit branch. Most of its members at that time were businessmen, 
doctors, and other representatives of the upper middle class of 
Negro life. All of them were sincerely devoted to the cause of 
Negro freedom. Most of them had worked faithfully and for many 
years to make the Detroit branch large and successful. But they were 
symbols of the dilemma of members of the Negro middle class. The 
bulk of their incomes was derived from sales or professional services 
to Negroes employed in the Ford plant. It was inevitable ffiereforc 

Turn to the Left at Detroit 215 

that they identify their own economic interest with that of anti- 
Mnion Negro Ford employees. 

We met at the colored YMCA to discuss the issue. I sensed the 
moment I entered the room that I was in an atmosphere as definitely 
anti-union as would have been that of a meeting of the board of 
directors of the Ford Motor Company. But fortunately for me the 
atmosphere was tempered with respect for the judgment of the 
national oflice. I pointed out that Ford’s employment of Negroes 
had been unique in the Detroit scene and that it was perfectly 
understandable that they should be concerned about the perpetua- 
tion of jobs upon which their livelihood in large measure depended. 
But, I added, it was inevitable that the Ford workers would eventu- 
ally be organized by some labor union. I told them of the pledges 
that had been made that afternoon by the union leaders. No good 
would come from labor-management warfare, and peace in the Ford 
plant could be obtained only by an impartial election under the 
National Labor Relations Board to determine in democratic fashion 
whether the Ford workers wanted to be organized, and, if so, by 
which unions. 

Jimmy McClendon, who had been my fellow student at Atlanta 
University, broke the silence which followed my presentation of 
the facts. 

“Okay, pal, if you say it’s that way. I’m with you,” he told me. 

Not all the skepticism vanished. But they were willing at least to 
find out whether the union would keep its pledges. 

The union offered us the use of its sound trucks to get the news 
of the pledges which had been made into the plant. But our judg- 
ment was against incurring obligations of any character to either 
side in the industrial quarrel. We hired our own sound trucks. The 
Reverend Horace White, Dr. McClendon, and several others of us 
circled the huge Ford plant. Over loud-speakers we read the union’s 
statement and pointed out that the best interests of neither the union 
nor the Ford Company nor Negroes would be served by their re- 
maining in the plant and causing almost certain rioting. 

The effect at first was slight. The pall of distrust was too impen- 
etrable. Newspapers in Detroit and throughout the country had fea- 
tured photographs of strikers beating Negro “scabs” and of Negro 

2i6 a Man Called White 

“strikebreakers” fighting with white unionists on the picket lines. No 
Negro pickets had been assigned to the plant by the union because 
of fear of trouble. I suggested that nonscgregated groups of pickets 
be assigned, and that efforts be made to get photographers to picture 
unity of this character instead of the discord and racial antagonism 
which had monopolized the news. 

I walked in the picket line around the plant and attempted to 
talk to a Negro inside who brandished a frightening weapon several 
feet in length made of tool steel which he had sharpened to razor- 
keenness. In answer to my plea that he come out of the plant he told 
me in exceedingly profane and biological language what he thought 
of unions in general and of me in particular. He said that Ford’s was 
the only place in Detroit where he had been able to find a job to 
support himself and his family, and that the union had not done a 
blankety-blank thing to break down employment discrimination in 
other Detroit plants. 

After a few hours, however, our loud-speaker appeals began to 
produce results. Across the main entrance of the River Rouge plant 
stood an apparently impregnable wall of human flesh made up of 
armed guards placed there to prevent not only entrance into the 
plant by unauthorized persons, but also to prevent departure of those 
inside from the plant. Across the road, which formed a kind of no 
man’s land, was a solid mass of strikers. I remember one sturdy Negro 
from the plant standing poised on the other side of the guards like 
a halfback waiting for the ball to be snapped. As one of the guards 
momentarily turned away the Negro charged through the split-second 
opening and across the road. A great cheer arose and he was greeted 
warmly by the strikers, who provided him transportation to his home. 
We did not succeed in getting all of the Negroes out of the plant, 
but many of them did leave. An NLRB election shortly afterward 
demonstrated that a majority of the workers wished to be represented 
by the UAW-CIO in preference to the UAW-AFL or a Ford com- 
pany union. 

The position taken in the Ford strike bore fruit in a number of 
ways. As amicable labor relations as any American industry has con- 
summated with a labor union have been established between the Ford 
Motor Company and the UAW-CIO. Hie union has assiduously at- 

Ttem to the Left at Detroit 217 

tempted to live up to its pledges and has vigorously and continuously 
fought racial discrimination within the union and in American life 

During the terrible race riots in Detroit in 1943 white union mem- 
bers fought against white mobbists to protect Negroes, and Negro 
unionists fought Negroes in protection of white fellow workers. 
There were two areas in Detroit during the riot where peace was 
maintained— in the plants which had been organized by the UAW- 
CIO and in the nonsegregated residential areas. 

Four years after the Ford strike, in 1945 , 1 was again called to De- 
troit in connection with an industrial dispute. This was the General 
Motors strike. Walter Reuther, the redheaded, ebullient anti-Com- 
munist president of the automobile workers, conceived the idea of an 
impartial citizens’ committee to listen to the evidence on both sides 
of the dispute and render an opinion if it saw fit to do so. The men 
and women who either served in person, or expressed their approval 
but were unable to serve, formed an interesting cross-section of Amer- 
ica. They included the Reverend Henry Hitt Crane, pastor of one of 
Detroit’s largest Protestant churches, who acted as chairman; Leon 
Henderson, former OPA director; Mrs. M. E. Tilly of Atlanta, Geor- 
gia, a powerful figure in Southern church and civic affairs; Josephus 
Daniels, former Secretary of the Navy; Walter Lippmann; James G. 
Patton of the National Farmers Union; F. R. Von Windegger, St. 
Louis banker; Ralph McGill, editor of the Atlanta Constitution; Mrs. 
William H. Hastings, president of the National Congress of Parents 
and Teachers; and ten other distinguished Americans. 

Reuther had insisted that the diirty per cent increase in wages 
which the union demanded should be considered in relation to the 
profits which General Motors was making and the prices which it 
charged the public for its products. To this a corporation spokesman 
had belligerently retorted that the prices General Motors charged 
and the salaries, bonuses, or other benefits to corporation executives 
were not the business either of the union, the government, or the 
public. Reuther had shrewdly put General Motors on the spot by 
offering to reduce the wage demands from thirty per cent to one per 
cent if the corporation would agree to make no increase to the public 
in prices and to reveal fully and frankly whatever hidden profits to 

2i8 a Man Called White 

management had been made. The union leader pointed out that in- 
creased wages would be meaningless if prices skyrocketed and that 
such wage increases would do great harm to the American economy. 
General Motors promptly and indignantly refused this offer. 

During the General Motors dispute I learned a lot about how shrewd 
corporation lawyers can enable management to concentrate control 
of American industry in the hands of a small oligarchy at the expense 
of stockholders and workers. Certain General Motors stockholders, 
dissatisfied with the manner in which the business of the company 
was being conducted, had appealed to the courts for redress. Such 
impudence was rebuked and safeguards against its repetition set up, 
by revision of the corporation’s rules so that virtually dictatorial 
power was given to a handful of top executives. The result was a 
situation which made those whose money had been invested in the 
company through the purchase of stock even more impotent than the 
workers. At least the latter had the strength which comes from being 

Our committee had no official status, nor was there any compulsion 
upon any party to the dispute to pay any attention to us. General 
Motors was asked to produce such witnesses as it wished heard and 
to submit whatever documentary evidence it cared to prepare. We 
were amazed at the ineptitude of the corporation from the standpoint 
of public relations. It refused to send any witness, which of course it 
had a perfect right to do, while at the same time it submitted a sub- 
stantial mass of data in the form of printed reports and mimeographed 
statements, most of which it would have been greatly to the advan- 
tage of the corporation to have withheld. 

Although I had made it my business for many years to read as 
widely as time permitted available material on labor-management rela- 
tions in the United States, the attitude of General Motors as presented 
by its spokesmen was a distinct shock to me. I knew that General 
Motors was not only one of the most powerful corporations in human 
history, but also one of the more enlightened units of our modern in- 
dustrial society. If its attitude toward not only its employees but the 
public as well was so intransigent, the even more arrogant attitudes 
of less enlightened corporations pointed toward ever-increasing con- 
flict. I wondered as I listened to the testimony how long a system of 

Turn to the Left at Detroit 219 

free enterprise could last under such conditions. What I heard and 
saw during those days at Detroit convinced me that there was little 
hope of industrial democracy if we continued the conflict of the im- 
movable object of stubborn employers with the irresistible force of 
aroused organized labor. 

I also learned much at first hand of the terrific stresses and strains 
within the labor movement. Reuther was then emerging as the most 
vocal and implacable enemy of communism in the trade-union move- 
ment generally and in the United Automobile Workers in particular. 
Pitted against him was a small but powerful coalition which sought 
control of the union either because of political beliefs, personal am- 
bitions, or honest disagreement with Reuther’s opinions and tactics. 
It was obvious that some of the members of this opposing faction 
would gladly have seen the negotiations fail rather than sec Reuther 
with his anti-Communist views emerge victor and thereby become a 
more powerful figure in American affairs. 

No Social Experiments y Please! 

Crushing defeats suffered by the Allied armies in Europe and the Pa- 
cific and the dire possibilities of the entire world being conquered by 
Hitler and Hirohito had little discernible effect on race prejudice in 
the United States. During the dark days immediately following Pearl 
Harbor bitterness against the Japanese seemed to find expression in 
Southern communities through acts of violence against Negro sol- 
diers, It became increasingly apparent that as long as white and Negro 
soldiers were kept in rigidly segregated units the chasm of racial bit- 
terness and misunderstanding would be steadily widened. As long as 
Frank Knox was Secretary of the Navy, where colored Americans 
were permitted to serve only in the messmen’s division, no change of 
the status of Negroes in that service was considered. 

Some progress was made in the Army, due primarily to the attitudes 
and efforts of Robert P. Patterson, Under Secretary of War, and Wil- 
liam H. Hastie, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of War. I made a pro- 
posal to General George C. Marshall, then Chief of Staff, in December 
1941, which had the sympathetic support of Mr. Patterson and some 
others in the War Department and which, had it been adopted, I am 
convinced would have set a new and successful pattern of democ- 
racy. I urged the creation of a volunteer Army division open to all 
Americans irrespective of race, creed, color, or national origin. I was 
not naive enough to believe that a Regular Army division free of seg- 
regation could be established without friction, during the tension of 
war. I knew that if men were forced against their will into Army 
units with those against whom they held strong prejudices, there 


No Social ExperhnentSy Please! 
would be clashes, some of them deliberately fomented, which would 
defeat the whole experiment. 

This was not idle speculation on my part. There had been many 
instances to prove that there were young Americans gravely bestirred 
by the conflict inherent in their country’s declaration that it was 
fighting a war against dangerous Nazi racial theories, while a similar 
racial philosophy dominated our Army and Navy. Roger Starr, a 
handsome young white New Yorker and Yale graduate, had written 
the War Department for permission to serve in a Negro regiment. 
He wanted thereby to contribute his bit to the elimination of racial 
segregation, since his presence as a white man would make the all- 
Negro regiment at least a token mixed unit. Mr. Starr’s idealistic and 
gallant gesture was widely publicized in the press. Almost immedi- 
ately he was inundated with letters from other young white men, in- 
cluding a number from the South, applauding the stand he had taken 
and pledging themselves to follow his example. 

I had the opportunity to see another dramatic demonstration of the 
eagerness of young white Americans to do something tangible on this 
question. I was invited to deliver the mid-year convocation address 
at the University of California at Berkeley. Just before leaving for 
California I was told by friends in the War Department that if a suf- 
ficient number of prospective soldiers indicated their desire to serve 
in a mixed division the chances of the establishment of such a unit 
would be greatly increased. 

At Berkeley, after an eloquent introduction by Dr. Robert Gordon 
Sproul, president of the University of California, I spoke to a vast 
audience of several thousand students, faculty members, and others. 
I mentioned with elaborate casualness the proposal I had just made 
to the War Department of a nonsegregated division. No sooner had 
the meeting ended than an avalanche of young men poured down 
upon me from the great amphitheater. The first student to speak was 
a blond, tousleheaded young giant of a Southerner, whose accent 
was so thick that even I as a native of Georgia had difiiculty in un- 
derstanding him. But there was no mistaking the gleam of idealism in 
his eye. 

“Ah want to be the first as a native of Jawja to volunteah for 

222 A Man Called White 

youah mixed division,” he said, his words tumblii^ forth in his ea^er" 

ness. “A lettah will be too slow— Ah’m goin’ to telegraph the Wah 


All my associates and I encountered the same reaction wherever we 
went. Not long after the speaking engagement at the University of 
California I talked at a student conference at Campobello Island at 
which were present representatives of a large number of universities 
and colleges from all over the United States. Every student there 
was delighted to find a concrete means of implementation of his faith 
and belief in democracy and his opposition to the color line. 

But the War Department was not moved. Despite the best efforts 
of Robert Patterson and a few others, including a general from Ar- 
kansas, the tradition-bound and prejudice-indoctrinated majority felt 
that “we must not indulge in social experimentation in time of war.” 
One of my letters was coldly dismissed by Major General E. S. 
Adams, at that time Adjutant General of the Army, with the curt 
statement that “your comments have been made a matter of official 
record for such reference as circumstances may warrant.” In answer 
to a request that a conference be held on the subject. General Adams 
wrote six days later that “the War Department does not contemplate 
the organization of a division such as suggested, and consequently a 
conference on the subject is not deemed necessary.” 

The cowardice of the War Department and of the government gen- 
eraUy in this and other instances continued despite a steadily mounting 
number of racial clashes. In Beaumont, Texas, policemen followed a 
Negro soldier, Charles Reco, after he had debarked from a bus to 
avoid an argument with the driver, and shot him in the back, killing 
him instantly. Louisiana state troopers killed in cold blood Private 
Raymond Carr and were not even reprimanded, despite a mass of evi- 
dence that the killing was wholly without provocation. Lieutenant 
Nora Green, an Army nurse stationed at the Tuskegee Army Air 
Forces training school, boarded a bus in Montgomery after a shop- 
ping tour in preparation for overseas duty. She was ordered by the 
driver to get out of the bus because it was a “white” bus. When she 
refused she was badly beaten and thrown into jail, where she was 
confined until three die next morning, when she was released upon 
payment of a fine. When we protested to the War Department and 

No Social Experiments, Please! 223 

the Department of Justice, Lieutenant Green was ordered not to talk 
about it, and the case was hushed up. 

A selected group of Negro officers and soldiers from the famous 
368th Infantry Regiment was returned to the United States from the 
Pacific and sent as cadres to a camp in South Georgia. When they 
arrived, a deliberate campaign was instituted to “teach them their 
place,” in view of the fact that they were from the North, and show 
them that they must conform to the Southern pattern of Negro be- 
havior and accept the treatment to which Southern Negroes are ac- 
customed. One officer of the G}ast Artillery went so far as to issue 
an order providing the death penalty for any Negro soldier a party 
to “relations between white and colored males and females whether 
voluntary or not.” Even the War Department thought this went too 
far and issued an order, when we protested the action, declaring that 
“the order was found to be contrary to the purport of verbal orders 
of the regimental commander, who has caused the order to be with- 

Courts-martial of Negro service men both within the continental 
United States and overseas increasingly became a weapon against men 
believed by prejudiced superiors to be too “militant.” 

We protested in season and out of season as we saw a storm ap- 
proaching, but to little avail. The spinelessness of Army and Navy 
policy became even more inexplicable as hundreds of Northern white 
soldiers in Southern camps voiced their bitter opposition to treatment 
of their Negro comrades in arms and urged the abolition of segrega- 
tion and discrimination. But their protests were as futile as ours. 

The most severe jolt to Washington complacency came when Wil- 
liam H. Hastie resigned as Civilian Aide to the Secretary of War in 
protest against the continued policy of discrimination in the Army 
Air Forces. Judge Hastie wrote a brilliant series of articles which we 
released to the press and published later in pamphlet form. The argu- 
ments he presented were so carefully documented and unanswerable 
that they served as an excellent focal point of the growing resentment 
among both Negro and white Americans against the system of segre- 

Machine Guns and Tear Gas 
in Detroit 

Meanwhile segregationist hysteria in civil life increased. Our fears of 
explosion as a result of unchecked violence against Negroes and the 
pent-up bitterness these attacks engendered began to be realized in 
1942, and spread with dismaying frequency during the following 

Detroit was the stage of two of these outbreaks. The first of them 
was a dispute over the question of whether whites or Negroes would 
occupy Sojourner Truth Homes, a federally financed housing project 
which had been named after the famous Negro abolitionist. When 
vacillating Washington eventually decided on Negro occupancy, 
mobs of whites attacked Negro tenants as they moved into the proj- 
ect, smashing furniture and brutally beating men, women, and chil- 
dren. Detroit policemen stood by idly and raised no hand to protect 

But the Sojourner Truth riot was but a mild prelude to the dis- 
orders which took place the following year. 

Early in June 1943, some twenty-five thousand employees of the 
Packard plant, which was manufacturing Rolls-Royce engines for 
American bombers and marine engines for the famous P-T boats, 
struck in protest against the upgrading of three Negroes. It was a 
wildcat strike bitterly opposed by the UAW-CIO. R. J. Thomas, at 
the time president of the union, had charged that the fomenters of 
the strike were members of the Ku Klux Klan, which though few in 
number were exceedingly and bitterly active in fighting the employ- 

Machine Guns and Tear Gas in Detroit 225 

ment and promotion of Negro workers despite a desperate labor short- 
age. I had seen evidence of the accuracy of Thomas’s charges. One 
night as the shifts of workers changed, I listened to a fiery orator 
with a thick Southern accent haranguing a crowd in front of one of 
the gates to the Packard plant. 

“I’d rather see Hitler and Hirohito win the war than work beside 
a nigger on the assembly line,” he screamed. 

Not only the Klan but a number of other organizations such as the 
National Workers League, followers of Gerald L. K. Smith and Father 
Coughlin, the Southern Voters League, certain Polish Catholic priests 
and their followers, and remnants of the notorious Black Legion, had 
industriously utilized anti-Negro and other prejudices in the same 
manner as the Nazis had utilized anti-Semitism in Germany. None of 
these organizations was numerically strong, but they made up in 
venom and aggressiveness for their lack of size. 

But not all of those responsible for the Detroit riot belonged to the 
lunatic fringe. Preceding and during the Packard strike the personnel 
manager and the general foreman of the Packard plant had openly 
urged the strikers to hold out in their demand against the employ- 
ment or promotion of Negroes. Although no attempt was made by 
such individuals to conceal their activities or opinions, no disciplinary 
action was taken against them by the Packard Motor Car Company. 
Similar conditions existed in other Detroit plants. 

Even more disheartening was the failure of most of the top-ranking 
industrialists to manifest any concern with the spreading of hate, the 
incredibly bad housing, recreation, and transportation facilities, or 
any of the other evils to which their Negro workers were subjected. 

Early on Monday morning, June 21st, I was wakened by a tele- 
phone call from the president of our branch in Detroit. The long- 
expected riot had come. A few hours later I was on a plane. The 
drive into the city from Detroit airport was marked by fleeting 
glimpses of mobs roaming the streets in search of Negro victims. 

The trouble had started on the previous night at Belle Isle, a mu- 
nicipally owned recreation park. On a crowded bridge, two automo- 
biles, one driven by a white Detroiter and the other by a Negro, had 
collided. It was a steaming hot night and the tempers of the two 
drivers were short. The quarrel which followed did not last long. 

226 A Mm Called White 

but it immediately set off a fantastic variety of dangerous rumors. 

In the white sections of Detroit a story was industriously spread 
that a Negro had raped a white woman on Belle Isle and that Negroes 
were rioting at the resort. In Negro Detroit the rumor spread like a 
a prairie fire that white sailors had thrown a Negro woman and her 
baby into the lake at Belle Isle and that police were beating innocent 

A white mob invaded the Roxy Theater on Woodward Avenue to 
drag out Negro patrons and beat them. Other mobs stoned automo- 
biles driven by Negroes, stopping them and also streetcars to pull out 
Negro passengers, who were beaten, stabbed, or shot. Meanwhile po- 
licemen stood by and made no effort to check the assaults. Within a 
few hours nearly all of Detroit was a battlefield, the exceptions being 
those areas in which Negroes and whites lived as neighbors. One De- 
troit policeman diverted automobiles driven by Negroes and ordered 
them to detour to Woodward Avenue, where mobs were waiting. Not 
even in the South had I ever seen so total a breakdown of law en- 
forcement machinery. Not only the police officers but Mayor Jeffries 
and Police Commissioner Witherspoon were as inactive in checking 
the mob as were the peace officers under their command. 

It was apparent to anyone that the rioting would not be stopped by 
the local officials. Judge Ira W. Jayne of the Wayne County Circuit 
Court, who has served for many years as a member of the NAACP 
board of directors, arranged an interview for me with Governor Harry 
S. Kelly. I asked Governor Kelly to request federal troops, because 
it was evident that the sporadic rioting in open daylight would be 
greatly increased with the coming of nightfall. 

But neither Governor Kelly nor any of the city officials acted with 
vigor and promptness. I therefore telephoned the War Department 
at Washington who told me that an official would have to get in touch 
widi the ^mmanding General of the area, stationed at Chicago. I 
passed this information on to the Governor, the phone call was finally 
made, and federal troops reached the city at nightfall, a curfew was 
established, and order was restored. 

But the thirty hours of rioting had cost Detroit thirty-four lives, 
injuries to more than six hundred persons, the destruction of a mil- 
lion dollars’ worth of property, and the almost complete stoppage 

Machine Guns and Tear Gas in Detroit 227 

of war production during the period of rioting. Of the thirty-four 
killed, twenty-five were Negroes, seventeen of them killed by 
policemen. More than three-fourths of the six hundred injured were 
colored. But eighty-five per cent of the 1,832 persons arrested were 
Negroes who had been the attacked instead of the attackers. The 
police charged most of the Negroes they killed with looting. It is 
true that there was a considerable amount of wanton lawlessness by 
some Negroes. Penned in ghettos from which their color barred 
them from escape, two hundred thousand Negroes occupied virtu- 
ally the same areas in which one-quarter of that number had lived 
twenty years before. Maddened by the long series of unchecked 
and unrebuked assaults upon them, some of the Negroes during the 
rioting took the only vengeance simple minds could find under the 
circumstances— smashing the windows of white stores in the Negro 
districts and pillaging the establishments. But the looting was not 
confined to Negroes. At the height of the rioting a white policeman 
was seen carrying two large cans of lard from a store, which he 
placed in the police car he was driving, presumably to take to his 
home. There were many instances of similar thefts. 

But there were instances, too, of heroism by both whites and 

Three white sailors recklessly plunged into a mob of more than a 
hundred whites to rescue the helpless Negro who was being beaten 
to death. Their faces bloody and their uniforms torn to shreds, the 
three sailors fought so ably that they succeeded in rescuing the 

The Detroit superintendent of schools told me another story of 
courage and cowardice on a Woodward Avenue streetcar. A police 
captain boarded the car with several patrolmen to announce that a 
mob was lying in wait near by and that he would take into custody 
the eight Negroes aboard the car and protect them. Four of the 
Negroes accepted the offer— and were promptly turned over to the 
mob to be beaten to death. The four colored men who chose to take 
their chances by remaining aboard the streetcar were saved when 
they Crouched on the floor and were covered by the skirts of sym- 
pathetic white women. 

In a town gone mad, Negroes were as gallant in protecting their 

228 A Man Called White 

white friends from infuriated Negroes. A white druggist operating 
a store in the heart of the Negro district was safely conducted by a 
Negro doctor to the edge of the Negro area. There were many in- 
stances of Negroes defending their white neighbors and white 
neighbors protecting Negro friends in the sections of the city where 
there was no racial segregation in housing. Equally remarkable was 
the attitude in the automobile and other plants where Negro and 
white trade unionists had learned to be friends. There were no in- 
stances of fighting or other friction within the plants even as rioting 
raged in the streets outside. 

Thurgood Marshall joined me in Detroit the second day of the 
riot and, with the assistance of investigators we brought from New 
York, we set about the difEcult task of getting the facts, attempting 
to stimulate city and state officials to action, and allaying the fears 
of the Negro community. Fortunately we had a large and active 
branch of the NAACP in Detroit, whose able executive secretary, 
Gloster Current, was an indefatigable worker. Two other members 
of our national office staff, Daisy Lampkin and Lucille Black, were 
also in Detroit at the time assisting in the annual membership cam- 

With the assistance of our local branch we set up headquarters 
in the basement of the colored YMCA in the heart of the Negro 
ghetto near the City Hall. The Wolverine Bar Association and the 
Detroit chapter of the National Lawyers Guild volunteered their 
aid in interviewing and counseling the seemingly unending number 
of bandaged, bewildered, and angered Negroes who passed through 
the office seeking help. Not long afterward I was destined to see 
bombed-out victims of Nazi terror in Europe. In Detroit I found 
the same bewilderment at senseless human cruelty on the faces of 
Negro victims of the same foul hate which Hitler had spewed upon 
Europe and the world. Men, women, and even children told us their 
stories of violence inflicted upon thejn not only by members of the 
mob but also by Michigan state troopers and the Detroit police. 

There was the story, for example, of what happened on Monday 
night to Negroes living in the crowded Vemor Apartments. A De- 
troit policeman had been shot and slightly wounded by a Negro 

Machine Guns and Tear Gas m Detroit 229 

who was then killed by another police officer. We were never able 
to find out why the state and city police connected this shooting 
with the Vemor Apartments, other than that they were occupied 
by Negroes. Police searchlights lighted up the building as though 
it were a Hollywood stage setting. Then the police began riddling 
the building with machine guns, revolvers, rifles, and deerguns. Tear 
gas was shot into the building to force the terrified tenants to evacu- 
ate it. It was a terrible sight when men, women, and children who 
had escaped death only by throwing themselves flat on the floors of 
the building emerged, some of them wounded, with hands high in 
the air at the orders of the heavily armed policemen. The helpless 
victims were beaten by officers as every obscene gutter phrase was 
hurled at them. 

The destruction which had not been total up to that point from 
bullets was then completed when police smashed locks and doors, 
ransacked the apartments, and took whatever money, jewelry, or 
other items of value they wanted. Thurgood Marshall remarked 
when we went to the Vernor Apartments after the police had com- 
pleted their destruction that the building “resembles a battlefield." 
This was a masterpiece of understatement. 

The following night, around ten o’clock, forty-six hours after 
the initial outbreak at Belle Isle, a squad car of state policemen drove 
up to the colored YMCA and searched every resident of the institu- 
tion, as well as passers-by, for weapons. When none was found, the 
Negroes were permitted to go on their way. As the last of them 
entered the building, one called to a friend, “Hi, Ridley!” One of 
the state policemen, who afterward said that the Negro had called 
out, “HeQ Hitler!” jumped out of the police car in which he had 
been sitting, put one foot on the bottom step of the building en- 
trance to steady his aim, and began firing into the building, seriously 
wounding one of the Negroes in the lobby. Two policemen entered 
the building and forced all the men in the lobby, and the desk clerk, 
to stand along the wall with hands above their heads. They were 
struck repeatedly and otherwise mistreated as the officers again 
searched them. The YMCA employees were forced to open all 
locked drawers and were threatened with death if they did not com- 

230 A Man Called White 

ply immediately. When no weapons were found, the police de- 
parted, leaving it to the YMCA officials to get the wounded to 

Thurgood and I worked incessantly to get the state authorities 
to take some action against the state policeman and his fellow officers 
for their wanton brutality. We were never able even to have them 
queried or reprimanded, much less punished. 

A committee of local citizens accompanied me to present to 
Mayor Jeffries the evidence which had been gathered. The Mayor’s 
office was a large room with his desk near a row of windows 
through which one could see the grimy public square. We were 
seated at a long table in one comer of the office while the Mayor 
talked with a young sailor. But Mayor Jeffries kept looking at us 
with quick glances as he prolonged the conversation, in which it 
was not difficult to read his reluctance to hear from us the evidence 
we had come to present. When at last he could prolong the inter- 
view with the sailor no further, he walked hesitantly across the room 
to where we sat. He fingered gingerly the mass of material I handed 
him as he complained that it was too much for him to read at the 
time and discuss with the delegation. I told him that he was not ex- 
pected to read it at once, but that I would summarize it if he wished. 
In a manner which seemed to indicate that he didn’t want to listen 
to any of it, Mayor Jeffries asked me if I could not come back to see 
him “sometime next week.” 

On no occasion have I ever felt time so completely wasted as I 
did on leaving Detroit City Hall that afternoon. 

No balm in Gilead was ever more soothing than the reaction to 
the Detroit massacre which I found on my return to New York. 
Mayor LaGuardia summoned me to Gracie Mansion with a group 
of others to hear the report of two New York City police officials, 
one Negro and one white, who had been sent to Detroit by the 
Mayor to observe the manner in which the police force there had 
handled the riot and to devise means of preventing repetition in 
New York City of the mistakes which had been made in Detroit. 
We did not know how soon those plans were to be needed in New 
York City itself. 

No sooner had I returned to the office than a request was made 

Machine Guns and Tear Gas in Detroit 231 

for me to meet with a group of distinguished persons in the theater 
and radio world who were eager to find some means of making 
known their opposition to race riots. 

A resourceful and energetic young woman by the name of June 
Blythe, a member of the publicity and promotion staff at RKO, was 
the moving spirit and indefatigable worker in this push for a pro- 
gram through which well-known figures in the entertainment world 
could utilize their influence to create a countersentiment to mob- 
bism. So shocked had many of these stars been by the brutality of 
the Detroit riot that they were willing to do everything possible to 
prevent its repetition. 

We formed the Emergency Committee of the Entertainment In- 
dustry. Our first task was that of attempting to arrange a coast-to- 
coast broadcast, utilizing services which would have cost many tens 
of thousands of dollars had it been on any other than a voluntar)’' 
basis. This was almost our undoing. So many top-flight artists offered 
to appear that there would have been time only to list their names, 
which would not have made a very entertaining show. We finally 
decided to do a reenactment of some episodes of the riot, with a 
brief speech by an outstanding American. William N. Robson of 
CBS agreed to write the script. We supplied him with the facts and 
in the meantime arranged an interview with Wendell Willkic to ask 
his support and participation. Aline McMahon came into New York 
from the country for this purpose on an oppressively sultry day. 

Willkie agreed almost instantly to appear on the program. He 
and Bill Robson and I worked on revisions of the script until it was 
as good as we could make it. We then faced the question of free 
time at a good hour on the air, since the committee had no money. 
The Columbia Broadcasting System gave us a half hour on the 
evening of July loth. When William S. Paley read the script he 
became so enthusiastic that CBS broke precedent by officially spon- 
soring the broadcast. This was, so far as I know, the first instance of 
a radio network’s taking an editorial position on a controversial 
issue of this sort. There was understandable apprehension by CBS 
and by ourselves as to the reception the broadcast would receive in 
Detroit and in Southern cities. To our delight the overwhelming 
majority of comments were favorable, and the program was given 

23a A Man Called White 

the Peabody Award by the University of Georgia as the best pro- 
gram of its type for the year. 

During its unfortunately short life the Emergency Committee of 
the Entertainment Industry drafted a code with respect to the treat- 
ment of minorities on the stage, radio, and screen which has mate- 
rially affected these entertainment media. I have always regretted 
that this committee, which was strictly nonpolitical but at the same 
time deeply concerned with implementing American protestations 
of democracy, was forced to disband because of lack of staff and 
money. Some of those who were active included: Herman Shumlin, 
Jane Cowl, Aline McMahon, Billy Rose, Maxwell Anderson, Jean 
Arthur, Tallulah Bankhead, Ralph Bellamy, Erskine Caldwell, Ilka 
Chase, Duke Ellington, William Feinberg, John Garfield, Benny 
Goodman, Max Gordon, George Heller, Lillian Heilman, Jean Her- 
sholt, James Hilton, Miriam Hopkins, Lena Home, Thomas Mann, 
Groucho Marx, Ralph Morgan, Jean Muir, Paul Muni, Arch Oboler, 
Elmer Rice, Paul Robeson, Edward G. Robinson, Jonas Rosenthal, 
Robert Rossen, Lawrence Tibbett, Walter Wanger, and Orson 

Harlem Boils Over 

On Sunday night, August i, 1943 , 1 went to bed early, exhausted in 
mind and body by three speaking engagements that day. I told 
Gladys that I did not want to be disturbed under any circumstances, 
even if President Roosevelt or Cleopatra called. I had been asleep 
only a few minutes when one of the members of our staff, Lucille 
Black, telephoned. Gladys told her of my request not to be dis- 
turbed and asked her to call back the next morning. 

“But does Mr. White know there is a riot going on in Harlem?” 
Lucille asked. 

Five minutes later I was dressed and ready to leave the house when 
Mayor LaGuardia phoned asking me to meet him as quickly as 
possible at the West 123rd Street police station. Roy Wilkins joined 
me in the lobby and we took a cab to 125th Street and Seventh 
Avenue, where the worst of the rioting was then centered. Neither 
of us thought of it at the time we left the house, but it was fortunate 
for me that Roy was in the same taxicab. As we rode down Seventh 
Avenue we could hear the smashing of plate glass windows and the 
roar of the crowd, as far north as 135th Street. We saw Negroes 
attempting to get at white people in automobiles who, unaware of 
the riot, had driven into the heart of it. Our cab got through safely 
because Roy’s brown skin saved us from attack. 

Mayor LaGuardia and Police Commissioner Lewis Valentine were 
already at the police station when we reached it. With the energy 
and resourcefulness which made him so great a mayor of New 
York, LaGuardia had ordered all available police officers into the 
Harlem area and had telephoned Governor’s Island for military 


234 ^ Called White 

police to get all soldiers and sailors out of Harlem. But unfortunately 
Governor’s Island was sending only white MP’s, and the temper of 
the crowds had already reached such a peak of frenzy that I feared 
mobs would attack them. I suggested to the Mayor that he telephone 
Governor’s Island again to send an equal number of colored MP’s 
ind to issue instructions that they be assigned to work in racially 
mixed pairs. This was done and there was no instance of any trou- 
ble. Negroes could not object as violently, even to the use of force, 
if one of the two MP’s handling a recalcitrant Negro soldier hap- 
pened also to be a Negro. 

Like many riots, this one had been caused by a wholly false 
rumor: that a Negro soldier had been shot in the back and killed 
without cause by a white policeman. There is in Harlem a hotel 
whose reputation has been questionable back to the days when that 
section of New York City was inhabited by whites. Unaware of its 
reputation, the mother of a Negro soldier stationed in New Jersey 
had gone there on Saturday night to await the arrival of her son 
from camp early the next morning. The soldier had brought his 
fianc6e to the hotel for breakfast with his mother, after which the 
three had gone to church, visited friends, spent several pleasant 
hours at a moving picture theater, and then returned to the hotel 
to pick up the mother’s luggage for her return home. 

That afternoon a group of men and women had rented a room in 
the hotel for a drinking party. One of the women became intoxicated 
and boisterous. As the soldier with his mother and fiancee entered 
the lobby, the drunken woman was arguing vociferously with a 
policeman who was stationed on the premises because the hotel had 
been raided previously. The policeman in line with his duty was 
attempting to quiet the obstreperous female who was becoming 
increasingly abusive, as she appealed to other guests to “protect me 
from this white man!” 

Not thoroughly informed nor understanding what was going on, 
the soldier remonstrated with the policeman who curtly advised 
him to mind his own business. Both men became angry and the 
policeman brandished his blackjack. The soldier seized the black- 
jack and started to run, whereupon the policeman, an inexperienced 
rookie, drew his revolver and shot the service man in the shoulder. 

Harlem Boils Over 235 

Under normal conditions the episode would have caused no more 
commotion than the average altercation that occurs in a huge city 
like New York scores of times daily. But conditions were far from 
normal in Harlem that sweltering summer night. A steady stream 
of letters had poured into the mailboxes of relatives and friends 
from Camp Stewart, Georgia, written by men of the 369th Infantry 
and telling of gratuitous insults and beatings and humiliations suf- 
fered by men who had fought in the Pacific and had been returned 
home to train other fighters. Not only Harlem’s newspapers but the 
daily press had been filled with countless stories of lynchings and 
mistreatment of Negro soldiers. Long Island airplane factories and 
other war industries were begging for men and women workers, but 
those with black skins were daily told contemptuously that they 
were not wanted. These conditions existed while Harlem radios 
pleaded around the clock for Americans to do their utmost to win 
the war. 

This was the caldron of brooding misery and frustration into 
which the rumor of another black soldier “murdered without provo- 
cation” was dropped. Down from the fire escapes where men and 
women sought futilely for a breath of fresh air, and out of the old- 
law tenements where color prejudice and poverty had packed human 
beings like sardines, poured an angry stream of Negroes. Fresh in 
their memories were the riots of Detroit and Beaumont, Texas, and 
the gory tales of black men hunted like wild beasts and killed. Sym- 
bols of a cruel and oppressive white world were the shiny plate-glass 
windows of the stores along 125th Street whose patronage was al- 
most entirely Negro but many of which had refused bluntly to give 
employment to Negroes however qualified. Whatever missile could 
be found went hurtling through the windows, and the sound of 
crashing glass was like strong drink to the mob. 

A strange and to me highly significant phenomenon was the fact 
that at the beginning of the riot, that is, from around ten p.m. on 
Sunday night until the early hours of the next morning, there was 
little looting. It was only after the first rage had spent itself that 
the looters became active. Throughout that first night food and 
clothing lay in tempting profusion behind smashed windows accessi- 
ble to hordes of men and women who all their lives had been forced 

236 A Man Called White 

to work long hours at miserable pay to earn enough for bare sub- 
sistence. But the crowds, inflamed by injustice, real and fancied, 
were beyond greed, and their berserk rage found expression only in 
lashing out at the symbols of the hostile world which hemmed 
them in. 

When the MP’s had arrived and were sent out in pairs to round 
up service men, and assignments had been given to the steady stream 
of police officers who poured into the 28th Precinct Police Station, 
LaGuardia suggested that he and I go on a tour of the area. Police 
Commissioner Valentine wanted to assign a squad car to precede 
and one to follow the Mayor’s car for protection. The impetuous 
Mayor refused to wait the two or three minutes it would have taken 
to arrange this. I attempted to induce LaGuardia to sit between me 
and the driver of the one-seat police car to avoid possible injury to 
the Mayor in the more exposed position. I was concerned not only 
for his sake, but also because I knew and feared the terrible publicity 
all Negroes would receive if any harm befell a man so well-known 
and beloved. But the Mayor would have none of this arrangement. 

“They know my face better than yours,” he ordered me, “so you 
sit in the middle.” 

Along Fifth, Lenox, and Madison Avenues north of 125th Street 
wild-eyed men and women, whose poverty was pathetically obvious 
in their shabbiness, roamed the streets, screaming imprecations. I 
thought of the stories I had read of the French Revolution whea 
the starved hordes had poured from the sewers and slums of Paris, 
shouting their hatred of oppression and oppressors. As we drove up 
Lenox Avenue we heard the crash of a brick against a store front 
and LaGuardia ordered the policeman to drive us to the spot. Al- 
though it took us but a minute or two to reach the scene, a fire 
broke out inside the store before the car came to a stop. Heedless 
of his own safety, LaGuardia jumped from the car and screamed at 
the crowd before the building. I doubt that in the excitement the 
Mayor was recognized, but such was the fury with which he lashed 
out at the marauders that his moral inclignation shamed and quieted 
the crowd, 'uffiich rapidly dispersed. 

It was apparent to me ffiat the situation was becoming increasingly 
dangerous and that ODe>maa campaigns to restore sanity, even when 

Harlem Boils Over 237 

conducted by as popular a figure as Mayor LaGuardia, could not 
stop the madness which had seized the community. I suggested to 
the Mayor that he order to Harlem city-owned sound trucks and 
that we get well-known Negro citizens to ride the streets of the 
area to appeal to the people to stop rioting and go home, explaining 
that the rumor which touched off the disorder was false. LaGuardia 
thought this a good idea and asked us to round up as many well- 
known citizens of Harlem as possible. Roy and I got on the telephone, 
to learn to our disappointment that many of those we wanted, such 
as Duke Ellington, Adam Powell, Joe Louis, and Cab Calloway, 
were out of the city. But we got the Reverend John H. Johnson, rec- 
tor of St. Martin’s Protestant Episcopal Church; Parole Commis- 
sioner Samuel Battle; and Ferdinand Smith, secretary of the National 
Maritime Union. 

Smith and I rode one sound truck together. Up Eighth Avenue 
from 123rd to 155th Street we cruised where the crowds were dens- 
est and angriest. Over and over again, as the huge vehicle nosed its 
way through crowded streets, we repeated our plea: “The rumor is 
false that a Negro soldier was killed at the Braddock Hotel tonight. 
He is only slightly wounded and is in no danger. Go to your homes! 
Don’t form mobs or break the law! Don’t destroy in one night the 
reputation as good citizens you have taken a lifetime to build! Go 
home— now! ” 

During our first trip up Eighth Avenue our pleas were greeted 
with raucous shouts of disbelief, frequently couched in language as 
violent as the action of the window-smashers. I remember partic- 
ularly one giant of a man who stood on the sidewalk, his clenched 
fists raised in frenzied anger, and from whose face all semblance of 
patience had been stripped, leaving bare the fears and bitternesses 
which his dark skin had brought upon him. His voice was as loud 
as his body was big and strong, and the imprecations he hurled at 
us almost drowned the lesser voices of the others. He was still there 
when we came back down Eighth Avenue half an hour later, his 
upthrust arms still betokened his rage, but I fancied his face was 
slightly calmer and his language had diminished from obscenity to 
colorful profanity. The third time I saw him he was silent and his 
arms hung limply at his sides as he listened again to our statement 

238 A Man Called White 

that no Negro soldier had been killed that afternoon in Harlem. 

Sheer repetition seemed to have its effect; on the second half of 
the second round trip, the giant was shouting to the thinning 
crowds to go home. 

I began to notice also the cessation or at least the diminishing of 
another sound which had puzzled me— a rat-tat-tat on the roof of 
the sound truck as we moved into dense groups on the streets. It 
was the sound of missiles thrown at us from rooftops and windows 
of the tenements which lined Eighth Avenue and made it a canyon 
of poverty and sordid misery. 

Toward" morning the looters who always take advantage of dis- 
order began to appear, especially from the more poverty-stricken 
areas east of Lenox Avenue. I remember especially a toothless old 
woman in front of a grocery store who moved about the edge of a 
crowd which had just smashed a store window. In one hand she 
clutched two grimy pillow cases which apparently she had snatched 
from the bed in which she had been sleeping. With the other hand 
she held the arm of a fourteen- or fifteen-year-old boy, possibly a 
grandson. The minute an opening appeared in the crowd the old 
woman, with an agility surprising in one of her age and emaciated 
appearance, climbed through the broken glass into the store window 
to fill the pillow cases with canned goods and cereals which lay in 
scattered disorder. When the bags were filled she turned toward 
the street and looked toward the police car in which LaGuardia 
and I were sitting. Exultation, vengeance, the supreme satisfaction 
of having secured food for a few days, lighted her face, and then I 
looked at the sleepy-eyed child by her side. I felt nausea that an 
abundant society like America’s could so degrade and starve a 
human being, and I was equally sickened to contemplate the kind of 
man the boy would become under such conditions. 

By daylight the fury of the mob had spent itself. Mayor La- 
Guardia and I went on the air in a broadcast to tell a startled New 
York what had happened. Over and over again the Mayor empha- 
sized that the disorder had not been a race riot and to point out 
that no white person had been attacked nor had any white mob 
attempted to form. Both of us stated that resentment at the mistreat- 

Harlem Boils Over 239 

ment of Negro soldiers, overcrowding, exorbitant rents, insufficient 
recreational facilities for both children and adults, poverty, and job 
proscription had caused the outbreak and that nothing could pre- 
vent its repetition except correction of these evils. Both press and 
radio handled the riot in the same sober and realistic fashion. I was 
amazed and delighted at the frequency of comment, ranging from 
husky taxi drivers to city officials, who said that they wondered 
why such an explosion had not occurred sooner considering the con- 
ditions under which the Negroes of Harlem lived. 

Toward morning scores of prisoners were brought into the 28th 
Precinct station. Doctor Johnson, Mayor LaGuardia, Commissioner 
Valentine, and I stood behind the desk watching the faces of the 
prisoners as they were booked. I have lived in Harlem since 1918, 
but I had never seen such concentrated despair as I witnessed that 
morning. Their anger spent, the men, women, and children were 
pathetic specimens of humanity as the consequences of their acts 
loomed before them. The loot which had been captured with them 
steadily mounted in the large lobby of the police station— clothing 
and household furnishings and food— particularly food. The ma- 
jority of the citizens of Harlem awoke that morning stupefied at 
what had happened the night before because most of them had been 
at home in bed before the outbreak, totally unaware of the rioting. 

The streets of Harlem where the rioting had been fiercest were 
a distressing sight in the glare of daylight. Ministers, social work- 
ers, newspapermen, housewives, and others, sickened with the dis- 
grace which had been brought upon New York City and Negro 
citizens, begged to be assigned tasks to repair as far as possible the 
damage that had been done. We were faced with the immediate 
problem of getting food and particularly milk for children into the 
area where only a few of the stores were undamaged or unlooted. 
Some merchants whose property had escaped damage were fearful 
of opening their stores. It was significant that in the majority of 
cases those who had not been molested were the establishments 
which had not attempted to sell inferior goods at exorbitant prices 
and whose employment policies had been more liberal. 

Under Mayor LaGuardia’s chairmanship a hastily arranged com- 

240 A Man Called White 

mittee, through the New York Qty Department of Markets, made 
provisions for stocking the stores in Harlem with immediate neces- 
sities. It was not until late afternoon that we dared leave the scene 
to go to our homes to get baths and hot food and rest. Again on 
Monday night we patroled the streets which were then as quiet and 
empty as the financial district of lower Broadway on a Sunday 

As is usually the case, there were many meetings and conferences 
after the riot was over to discuss its causes and cures. The City- 
Wide Citizens Committee on Harlem was formed; it functioned for 
several years and did achieve some results in obtaining jobs for 
Negroes and in keeping before the consciousness of the people of 
New York the issues involved. 

Algernon Black, leader of the Ethical Culture Society, and I were 
cochairmen for a while until the pressure of other work made it 
necessary for me to relinquish the responsibility. When I had to re- 
sign Dr. Black expressed his regret, saying, “The Black- White Com- 
mittee is an ideal combination, especially since the man named 
‘Black’ is white and the man named ‘White’ is black— or calls himself 

But despite the efforts of individuals and organizations there has 
been little change in the basic causes of the 1943 riot in the thou- 
sands of Harlems— North and South— in the United States. Thrift of 
Negroes has been penalized by the attitude of banks, insurance com- 
panies, and investment corporations with respect to mortgages and 
other loans for improvement of housing in Harlem or other segre- 
gated areas in New York Gty. Restrictive covenants in deeds to 
property and the pressures of landlords and real estate agents con- 
tinue to make it difficult if not impossible for Negroes, whatever 
their financial or cultural status, to purchase or rent property outside 
the ghetto. Amazingly and dishearteningly true is the fact that such 
covenants against Negroes have been used by members of other 
minorities who are themselves often the target of restrictive cove- 

More progress of a permanent nature has been made in the field 
of employment, but it is still a far higher hurdle for trained Negroes 
to utilize their training than for other Americans to do so. Yet I 

Harlem Boils Over 241 

can see considerable progress when I look back at the situation in 
1918 when I first arrived in New York. Today there are many more 
Americans who are aware that they too have a stake in the finding 
of a solution to the problem of the treatment of minorities in the 
United States and the world at large. 

I Seen Them Work^^ 

I found myself during this period increasingly eager to go overseas 
to learn at first hand the facts about the clashes between white and 
Negro American soldiers which seeped through to us despite war- 
time censorship. Occasionally a brief and cryptic item would be 
published in American newspapers concerning the more serious of 
these disorders; and between the lines of letters which we received 
from both Negro and white service men it was evident that the 
number of such conflicts was far greater than any of us knew with 
certainty. I made application to the War Department for permission 
to go overseas in any capacity which would permit me to travel 
freely and talk with whomever I chose. There were many delays, 
discussions, inoculations, papers to be filled out, and repetitious 
farewells, as day after day I expected orders to report to the air- 
field, but finally, on January 2, 1944 , 1 left America for England as 
a war correspondent. 

No sooner had I been billeted in a small hotel in the outskirts of 
London than newspaper correspondents swooped down upon me to 
ask if it were true that I had come overseas as a special investigator 
for the White House. The more vehemently I denied the rumor, 
the more skeptical some of them became. I was never able to learn 
who in the War Department had sent word of my coming and, 
apparently, warned that I be ^‘handled carefully.” It was obvious 
from the beginning that wherever I went and with whomever I 
talked, my every movement was closely watched. It was equally 
apparent that quite elaborate efforts were being made to steer me 
away from areas where there had been racial clashes and to keep me 

«/ Seen Them Work^^ 243 

from talking with those, both white and Negro, who wanted to tell 
me what they knew. 

But there were notable exceptions. Soon after I arrived in Lon- 
don, Major General John C. H. Lee invited me to dinner. On arriv- 
ing at his flat I found that General Lee had also invited top-ranking 
officers of the Service of Supply to talk frankly about the problems 
which some prejudiced white American officers and enlisted men 
had created in the European Theater of Operations. Among them 
was Colonel Roy Lord, who later became Major General Lord be- 
cause of his quiet genius in handling vast numbers of men and quan- 
tities of war materials. There were present those in charge of Special 
Service (which later became Information and Education), and those 
dealing with legal, security, and other phases of the vast operation 
necessary to a global war. There was my old friend, Jock Lawrence, 
whom I had known in Hollywood, who had just been made Chief 
of Army Public Relations. 

General Lee talked with refreshing frankness about the dangerous 
situation between white and Negro American soldiers which was 
slowing up preparations for the invasion of Normandy and making 
us as a nation exceedingly unpopular with the British. General Lee 
told the officers that I should be given access to whatever areas, 
individuals, or documents I wished to see to permit me to get at the 
truth and to recommend corrective action. General Lee assigned 
Captain Max Gilstrap of his staff to act as my guide and put at my 
disposal a staff car and chauffeur. The next morning he sent an 
order to the commanding officers of areas and base sections to per- 
mit me to see whatever I wanted to see under circumstances of my 
own choosing. 

The effect was all one could imagine it to be. I was the recipient 
of jittery respect in camps throughout the European Theater which 
I visited. Almost invariably commanding officers would offer either 
to guide me themselves or to assign several subordinates to do so. 
It was quite apparent in most cases that these commanding officers 
were more concerned with keeping soldiers, Negroes in particular, 
from talking freely with me, than in extending courtesies to me. 
Such was the effect of General Lee’s order, however, that 1 soon 
learned to take full advantage of it by pleasantly but firmly refus- 

244 ^ Called White 

ing escorts so that I could talk in barracks, mess halls, or wherever 

I chose with soldiers so that they need not fear reprisals. 

Although it had its bright spots, the picture I saw was no credit 
to America. I found an appalling number of men who put their 
prejudices above their patriotism. This was especially true of offi- 
cers. Many of them used every device, official or personal, which 
could be developed to make the lot of the Negro soldier as un- 
pleasant as possible. The same tactics were used against white offi- 
cers and enlisted men who dared oppose such mistreatment and 

I came across innumerable instances where Negro soldiers were 
court-martialed, found guilty, and sentenced to long terms for minor 
offenses while white soldiers who were clearly guilty of much 
graver crimes were either acquitted or meted out light punishment. 
When some of these cases were reported to General Eisenhower and 
other top-ranking Army officers, the corrective action which fol- 
lowed was characterized by some of the prejudiced whites as 
“babying” and protecting Negroes. 

I spent some time at an Army prison commanded by Colonel 
James E. Killian, who was later court-martialed for the brutal treat- 
ment of American soldiers. Some of his subordinates, at a time when 
there was no danger of our being interrupted by the Colonel, 
showed me the records of some of the prisoners. I remember par- 
ticularly a young Southerner whose eyes at one point filled with 
tears of anger and frustration as he told me the facts about some of 
the cases. 

A Negro private in an engineering company had been court- 
martialed for missing bed-check, and given six months, although he 
was on the post and returned to his bunk a few minutes after in- 
spection by an officer had found him absent. Outraged by what he 
considered unfairness during his trial, he had told the Court, when 
asked if he wished to say anything before sentence was passed, that 
he considered the Court a prejudiced one. For this “crime” he had 
been given two additional sentences of six months each to run con- 

The young Southern officer showed me the record of a white 
soldier in comparison. The latter had struck and kicked his lieu- 

“/ Seen Them Work'' 


tenant, cursed and struck his captain, and committed other offenses, 
for which he had been given a total of six months— one third of the 
length of the term given the Negro soldier. 

I do not mean to charge or imply that the administration of mili- 
tary justice was uniformly as one-sided as these two cases indicate. 
But they were sufficiently typical of every theater of war I visited 
to establish a sound basis for grievance. When I placed the facts as 
I had discovered them before General Eisenhower, he ordered the 
Judge Advocate General of the European Theater to investigate 
each case and take corrective action both on individual cases and on 
court-martial procedure. Some of the more flagrant injustices were 
corrected. But I gained the distinct impression from checking (as 
far as military practice and wartime regulations would permit) that 
most of the investigators assigned to the task were more interested 
in exculpation of the officers responsible for these miscarriages of 
justice and of the court-martial system than in anything else. 

Especially were courts-martial used against Negro soldiers who 
had the fortitude to protest against discrimination. These were con- 
sidered “bad Negroes” who were to be assigned the most unpleasant 
and humiliating tasks to break their spirit and to be court-martialed 
if other methods failed. An example of this kind of treatment is the 
following incident which took place in North Africa. 

A captain of military police swaggered through a Negro camp 
cursing the men and calling them “niggers.” Some of the Negro 
soldiers drafted and circulated a petition to their commanding oflicer 
protesting against such treatment. The signers of the petition were 
immediately called on the carpet, denounced for their “impudence,” 
and assigned to malaria-control work in the desert. One of their 
comrades, who is a university graduate, but who had not been 
allowed to sign the petition because he was already labeled an 
“agitator,” wrote a letter through military channels to General 
Eisenhower protesting the treatment which had been given his 
fellow soldiers. When several weeks had passed without any action 
or reply to his letter, he wrote direct to General Eisenhower. Action 
was immediate. He was court-martialed for violating Army regula- 
tions against sending any communication to superior officers except 

246 A Man Called White 

through “channels.” The young Negro was sentenced to six months, 
forfeiture of pay, and other penalties. 

Wherever I went in the British Isles, North Africa, and the 
Middle East, and later in the Pacific, I found the same situation. The 
majority of American service men, particularly enlisted men, were 
either decent in their racial attitudes or indifferent on the subject. 
But everywhere there was a minority of bigots who were more 
determined to force their bigotry on others than they were to win 
the war. This was true almost as much of Northerners as of South- 
erners, especially among officers. I have never heard as much concen- 
trated prejudice voiced against Negroes, Jews, Roosevelt, Catholics, 
and “foreigners”— particularly the “foreigners” in whose country 
these officers were stationed— as I have heard in officers’ clubs 
around the globe. Frequently I would become so angry or nauseated 
that I would leave the club to find greater human decency among 
enlisted men. 

I soon learned to judge the caliber of the commanding officers of 
Negro units within a few minutes after arriving in camp. In the 
majority of cases Negro soldiers would eye me almost furtively as 
they saw me moving about the camp with the commanding officer 
or one of his white subordinates. But as soon as I was able to shake 
off my guides and the news spread that the secretary of the NAACP 
was in camp, the atmosphere of caution disappeared. A torrent of 
complaints, many of them well-founded, as I learned upon investiga- 
tion, would descend upon me. But with the complaints of mistreat- 
ment invariably came little acts of gratitude and kindness which 
touched me deeply. 

There was the time, for example, when a Negro chaplain, Captain 
William Perkins, arranged for a special concert for me of the Army 
Negro chorus which Captain Perkins had organized and trained. 
Captain Gilstrap, our driver, and I drove for hours through an im- 
penetrable blackout to reach the place in East Anglia where the 
chorus was to sing for us. Incessant rains had made a quagmire of 
the area where airfields for B-iy’s were being constructed with 
lightning speed and efficiency. We arrived dinnerless, half an hour 
late. The huge Quonset hut seemed icier because of the tiny British 
stove than it would have been had there been no visible attempt to 

‘7 Seen Them Work!^ 


warm the building. During the concert we munched sandwiches 
and drank coffee which Captain Perkins thoughtfully supplied. I 
wondered as I listened to some of the most beautiful singing I had 
ever heard how such melody could come through teeth which must 
have chattered with the cold. 

We stumbled through the pitch-darkness and the ankle-deep mud 
to Captain Perkins’ hut, where we were to spend the night. A fat- 
bellied American stove had been stoked so full that it glowed ruby 
red. There were mounds of chocolates and cigarettes which the 
soldiers had contributed from their rations. In some fashion snowy 
white sheets and pillow cases had been obtained for our beds. After 
months of sleeping in the rough texture of Army blankets, I slept 
that night with a sense of luxury greater than I have ever known, 
before or since. 

Despite a bombing, we sat up late talking. As I was about to go 
to sleep one of the soldiers asked me what I wanted for breakfast 
the next morning. Knowing full well that it would be the inevitable 
and omnipresent powdered eggs and Spam, I told him sleepily that 
I wanted steak and hot biscuits. To my amazement and delight, that 
miracle was achieved. Small slices were carved by the mess sergeant 
from stewing beef and thus we had our steaks! 

On my return to London, Ambassador Winant and Generals 
Eisenhower and Lee seemed gravely disturbed by the reports I gave 
them. Mr. Winant wanted material which could be used by the 
Joint Anglo-American Board of which he was a member, which 
largely determined both civilian and military life in England. Vari- 
ous civil and military British agencies had vigorously and sometimes 
belligerently resisted, at the outset of the war, the demands made 
by some Americans that a rigid color line, which had not existed 
before the war, be established. But various and steady pressures had 
changed this initial attitude considerably, especially with respect to 
contacts between British civilians and American Negro soldiers. 
General Eisenhower also asked me to prepare a detailed report of 
my observations and to include in it recommendations for whatever 
action could be undertaken to correct or ease the situation. These 
include: The establishment of an impartial and biracial board to re- 
view court-martial records of Negro troops and to re-examine the 

248 A Mon Called White 

entire procedure with recommendations of methods to reduce the 
incidence of prejudice. I urged the abolition of the custom of 
declaring “off limits” to Negro soldiers virtually all the areas con- 
tiguous to Negro camps. I recommended the assignment of white 
and Negro military police to work in mixed pairs in all areas where 
white and Negro troops were billeted near each other. I pointed out 
that I had found that in practically every instance where there had 
been friction, the commanding officers had been either prejudiced 
or weak or both, and, contrariwise, the commanding officers where 
little or no trouble had occurred were men who enforced the orders 
against discrimination which had been issued by General Eisen- 
hower and others in the higher echelons. 

Army G-2 was urged to take action on the spreading of fantastic 
falsehoods by some white Americans that Negroes had tails, were 
addicted to barking instead of talking as a means of communication, 
that they were savages brought from Africa, and so on. I recom- 
mended that .more high-ranking Negro officers and more combat 
troops be brought to the European Theater. 

I urged that Negro air units be utilized on a nonsegregated basis; 
that qualified Negro medical officers be assigned to the Medical 
Corps; that more indoctrination of both white and Negro troops on 
the facts about the nature and quality of Negro troops be added; 
that United Nations canteens be established by the United States 
Army and the American Red Cross in cooperation with the British 
and other allies to enable soldiers of all nations and colors to asso- 
ciate under decent circumstances instead of in pubs and places of 
questionable character. 

I had discovered several instances where Negro combat troops 
had been transformed after arrival overseas into service units. This 
had been one of the most damaging of all practices to the morale 
of Negro troops. 

One of the most dramatic examples of the abandonment of inter- 
racial antagonisms in combat on the part of combat troops them- 
selves, and the tragic perpetuation of it by the Army High Com- 
mand, occurred during and after the Battle of the Bulge. 

Von Rundstedt’s sudden and dismayingly effective break-through 

‘7 Seen Them Work!^ 


threatened disaster. The tide of war might have been changed 
at that point. At the very least, the war would have been prolonged 
had this daring maneuver succeeded, even though superior numbers 
of men and infinitely greater war materials would probably have 
brought Allied victory. Many Americans now alive would have 
died in the interim. 

Every available man was thrown into the breach to stop the Ger- 
man advance, but even then there were not enough. Desperate ap- 
peals were sent to the United States to rush more combat troops as 
quickly as possible. Many were sent by plane, but even these proved 
insufficient. It was at this point during some of the fiercest fighting 
that Lieutenant General John C. H. Lee issued an appeal to colored 
Service of Supply troops to volunteer as combat troops. 

“It is planned to assign you without regard to color or race to 
units where assistance is most needed,” General Lee promised. He 
made no effort to minimize the desperate character of the fighting 
nor the great number of casualties caused by the German break- 
through. He pointed out that all noncommissioned officers would 
have to surrender their ratings to qualify for service as combat 

An avalanche of volunteers answered General Lee’s appeal. In 
some units as high as eighty per cent of the soldiers offered their 
services. In one engineer unit, 17 1 out of the i86 men volunteered. 
One pfc. in an ordnance company declared, “We’ve been giving 
a lot of sweat. Now I think we’ll mix some blood with it!” 

Delighted at this first opportunity to function as “real” soldiers, 
the response was so great that the entire structure of required serv- 
ice units was threatened. The Army had to set up a quota to prevent 
complete disorganization of its service units. 

Generals George Patton, Omar Bradley, and Courtney Hodges 
gave their approval to the use of Negro soldiers in completely un- 
segregated combat units. General Eisenhower was enthusiastic. But 
Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General W. Bedell Smith, 
now United States Ambassador to Russia, insisted that the plan be 
submitted to General George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff. 

Washington was aghast at the unprecedented idea of an unsegre- 
gated, genuinely democratic army. It ordered the plan abandoned^ 

250 A Man Called White 

But the need for combat troops was so critical that the high com- 
mand in Washington was forced by persuasion and the circumstance 
to agree to a compromise— the inclusion of all-Negro platoons in 
white regiments, instead of the admixture of whites and Negroes 
throughout regiments. Although the Negro soldiers felt that they 
had been let down, their ardor was not too greatly diminished. The 
Negro platoons were distributed among eleven combat divisions of 
the First and Seventh Armies. They fought through the latter and 
crucial stages of the Battle of the Bulge and through the subsequent 
Allied drive across Germany. 

Of all the Negroes who were thus permitted to fight, only two 
went AWOL. Their platoon had not at the time seen action because 
it was stationed in the rear as reserve troops. The whereabouts of 
the two deserters was discovered a few days after their disappear- 
ance when a front-line division commander reported that the two 
Negroes had “reported to him to fight!” 

Several of the Negro volunteers won the Distinguished Service 
Cross, Silver Star, and were otherwise cited for bravery over and 
beyond the call of duty. 

The Army took a poll among the white officers and soldiers who 
had fought with Negro troops. The results are to me a striking 
example of the fact that race prejudice is not as immovable as timor- 
ous people imagine. The Army poll showed that after having served 
in the same unit with colored combat soldiers, seventy-seven per 
cent of the officers favored integration as contrasted with thirty- 
three per cent prior to the experience. The figures among enlisted 
men were seventy-seven per cent and thirty-five per cent, after and 
before the experience of serving with Negroes, 

A white South Carolina sergeant was quoted by the Army as say- 
ing, “When I heard about it, I said I’d be damned if I’d wear ffie 
same shoulder patch they did. After that first day, when we saw 
how they fought, I changed my mind. They are just like any of the 
other boys to us.” 

Another sergeant from Alabama, after telling how bitterly he had 
opposed serving with Negroes at first, emphatically confessed a 
total change of attitude. “I used to think they would be yellow in 
combat, but I seen them work.” 

«/ Seen Them Work^^ 

* 5 * 

Eighty-four per cent of white company officers and eighty-onc 
per cent of white platoon sergeants declared on inquiry that Negro 
troops had fought superbly, and seventeen per cent of officers and 
nine per cent of enlisted men even went so far as to say that Negroes 
fought better than white troops. Seventy-three per cent of the 
officers and sixty per cent of the enlisted men expressed the opinion 
that white and colored soldiers had got along together very well 
even in the close contact which comes from serving together. 

General Patton highly praised the colored volunteers. General 
Eisenhower declared: “All my commanders reported that these vol- 
unteers did excellent work.” General Charles Lanham of the 104th 
Division, presenting combat decorations to eleven Negroes, went 
even further to declare: “I have never seen any soldiers who have 
performed better in combat than you have.” 

But General Eisenhower, to the dismay of many of us who had 
faith in him, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee 
in 1948 that he believed racial segregation in the Army should con- 
tinue at the platoon level. And on April 26, 1948, Kenneth C. Royall, 
Secretary of War, who comes from North Carolina, bluntly told a 
distinguished group of fifteen Negro leaders that the Army would 
continue segregation. 

Even after V-E Day, the amity between white and Negro com- 
rades in the Battle of the Bulge continued and many warm friend- 
ships developed. One of the Negro veterans of the Battle of the 
Bulge recently shared with me correspondence with a Louisianian 
who had been his buddy in Patton’s Third Army. The young white 
veteran voiced his dismay at conditions he had found on returning 

“What can I do with people who haven’t the slightest understand- 
ing of what the war was fought for?” he asked. 

Negro and white soldiers alike believed that the policy of integra- 
tion would be continued at least for those Negroes who had fought 
in this emergency. But after V-E Day, most of the Negro platoons 
were ordered out of the combat divisions and assigned once more 
to the menial tasks of service units. The emergency ended, it was 
apparent that powerful forces in the Army were determined that, 
however well Negroes had fought and behaved, they should not 

252 A Man Called White 

have the gloiy and publicity of returning to America as part of 
victorious combat divisions or be permitted to wear the insignia of 
those combat divisions. The flaming high morale of the Negro 
volunteers plummeted to an all-time low. Four Negro sergeants 
determined on direct action— appeal to General Eisenhower. Their 
efforts to get permission failed, so they went AWOL to Allied 
Headquarters at Frankfurt. General Eisenhower, they learned to 
their dismay, had left for Potsdam for the conference President 
Truman was holding there with the heads of Allied nations. But a 
military aide. Colonel Lee, who, either through his own liberality or 
through contact with Generals Eisenhower and Lee, had attained a 
deep understanding of and sympathy with the Negro volunteer, 
invited them in and talked frankly with them, saw to it that they 
were fed in the cafeteria of Supreme Allied Headquarters, and in- 
vited them to return four days later for a decision on rectification 
of the situation. 

The following Monday the men returned to Allied Headquarters 
—to learn that Colonel Lee had been suddenly transferred to the 
United States. All their efforts and those of others, white as well as 
Negro, to preserve their combat status which had been won under 
fire, were in vain. All the Negro volunteers were restored to their 
previous status as Army menials. 

But a dent in the pattern of segregation has been made. Lieutenant 
General Robert L. Eichelberger, Commanding General of the 
Eighth Army, on January 20, 1947, at Gifu, Japan, announced the 
formation of a modified nonsegregated division, consisting of two 
white regiments and one Negro regiment. This action was taken 
following War Department approval of the recommendations of a 
Board headed by Lieutenant General Alvan C. Gillem, himself a 
Southerner, which had outlined steps to eliminate segregation. Per- 
haps the United States Army and Navy will eventually have courage 
enough to make our armed services genuinely democratic. 

Good Enough to Unload Ships 

To jump ahead in my story: I found the most bitterly resented in- 
cident of racial discrimination in the Army in North Africa. Major 
General George Barr, Chief of Staff of the Mediterranean Theater, 
had arranged for me to fly in his personal plane from Algiers to 
Oran. He had declined to tell me the reason for the trip. But shortly 
after arriving I was conducted to a sort of natural amphitheater 
where the Negro Second Cavalry Division was gathered. The sight 
of thousands of men sitting morosely on the ground and looking 
unhappily at me from beneath battle helmets as I stood at the hastily 
erected microphone was one not easily forgotten. The white and 
colored oflicers headed by General Harry Johnson of Texas formed 
a thin line of officialdom at the bottom of the amphitheater. Behind 
them rose great masses of dark faces to the top of the curved hill- 

I was told in answer to my query as to the reason for the assem- 
blage that both officers and men were exceedingly embittered be- 
cause the Division had been trained for combat duty but on arrival 
in North Africa had been ordered transformed into port battalions 
to unload ships. They had been called together so that I could talk 
to them and tell them to be “good boys.” 

The story infuriated me because there was no rhyme or reason 
for die transformation which had depressed and enraged the men 
of the Second Cavalry Division and all other Negro troops. There 
was at Oran at the time a huge casual camp in which there were 
between forty thousand and fifty thousand misfits who had been 
relieved from combat duty. These men had nothing to do except 


254 A Man Called White 

to keep their tents clean. Idleness was causing considerable trouble. 
The most intelligent step which could have been taken would have 
been to use these men in unloading ships and handling supplies for 
transshipment into the Italian Theater of War where the desperate 
battles of the Anzio beachhead and Cassino were then being fought. 
But these soldiers were white— and the high command for that 
reason apparently thought their energies should not be used in un'o 
loading ships, even though most of the men had failed in combat, 

But the Second Cavahy Division, a colored unit, was deemed by 
the high command, because it was made up of Negroes, the instru- 
ment for unloading ships, despite the fact that many hours and 
dollars had been devoted in the States to training them for combat 

When I discovered that I had been selected to assuage th% 
wounded pride of the Negro troops and to tell them to be “good 
soldiers,” I bluntly refused to be a party to pulling out of the fire 
chestnuts which had been thrown in by stupidity and racial igno- 
rance. As we stood arguing the point a few yards from the micro- 
phone I could feel thousands of eyes in dark faces glaring hostilely 
down upon us. I did not need to be told that the question was 
pounding through the minds of each one of the Negro troops as to 
whether or not I would let them down. Few if any of the white 
officers who were pleading with me to urge the cavalrymen to ac- 
cept the situation were intelligent enough to know that my advising 
them, as secretary of the NAACP, to submit to indignity would 
have added fuel to their resentment instead of quenching it. 

I walked to the microphone and told the men that I knew what 
was passing through their minds and that I shared their anger. I 
promised to do whatever I could to enable them to serve in the 
capacity for which they had been trained. I could not tell them 
that I had exacted a promise from a representative of the War 
Department who was present to permit me to send a cable to 
Washington urging that the order be rescinded and the Second 
Cavalry Division permitted to fight instead of perform menial 
duties. The faces of the men became somewhat less morose because 
of my pledge. But although the theater commander and his subordi- 
nates expressed to me their agreement with my contention that the 

Good Enough to Unload Ships 255 

order had been both unnecessary and unwise, it was never recalled. 

In Italy I found the situation only a little better. The overwhelm- 
ing majority of Negro troops there were unloading ships, repairing 
airfields, and driving trucks. But there was a new pride among them 
because of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, which as a part of the 79th 
Pursuit Group, was making a distinguished record in combat. 
Negroes were being given an opportunity to do something more 
than menial army chores. Although the 79th Pursuit Group was 
still flying fairly slow, low-altitude planes, such was the determina- 
tion of the 99th to prove the mettle of Negroes as fighters that the 
flyers were almost pathetically reckless in strafing and bombing 
enemy targets. German airmen had become so terrified by the 
“black flying devils” that they fled whenever they found their 
opponents to be members of the 99th. As a matter of record, the 
three white squadrons of the 79th Pursuit Group fought as skillfully 
and bravely as the Negro 99th Squadron, but pigmentation made the 
Negro airmen more discernible and more to be feared. 

But to me the most remarkable development was the total oblit- 
eration of consciousness of difference in skin color among both 
white and Negro flyers of the 79th Group. An indication of this was 
given me by an episode which occurred while I was with the 99th. 
A dinner party had been arranged to celebrate the first anniversary 
of entrance into combat of the 79th Pursuit Group. The event was 
scheduled to be held in the flamboyantly luxurious ofiicers’ club at 
Naples. But the committee in making arrangements was confronted 
with an order which had been issued by Lieutenant General Jacob 
L. Devers as Commander of the Mediterranean Theater of Opera- 
tions forbidding association of Negro and white Army personnel in 
any place where there was dancing. The reaction of the white 
flyers was that of instantaneous anger and rebellion. 

“We have fought together for a year, some of our members have 
died together, and when we celebrate we are going to do it together 
no matter what the top brass says,” was their declaration of war on 
prejudice. The dinner was held as they had planned it. 

Back in Algiers some weeks later I asked General Devers about 
the order and the reason for its issuance. 

“It was brought in to me one afternoon as I was hurrying to an 

2^6 A Mm Called White 

appointment,” he told me. “They said it was necessary to prevent 

friction, so I signed it,” he ended apologetically. 

I asked him what he would now do if he was convinced that 
issuance of the order had been a mistake, and if he planned punitive 
action against the 79th Group for violating it. 

“The Army never revokes orders of this sort,” he answered 
lamely. He gave no answer to my question about punishment of the 
79th Group, but left the impression that he preferred to ignore the 

At the Anzio beachhead Negro soldiers established a record for 
courage under fire which was never adequately reported or photo- 
graphed. The lifting of Army censorship about that operation of 
exceedingly doubtful military value permits the telling now of this 
story. Military experts may be able to prove some tactical advan- 
tage of the beachhead landing at Anzio, but it would take an enor- 
mous amount of persuasion to convince the officers and men who 
served there. Several divisions were packed so tightly in the area 
shaped like a slice of pie, fourteen miles deep and eight miles from 
Anzio to Nettuno, that the American troops were easy targets for 
incessant German bombing and the three heavy German guns which 
the Americans nicknamed “The Anzio Express” and “Whistling 

So great was the accuracy of the Nazi gunners that they could 
lay a 340-millimeter shell with deadly skill on almost any square 
yard of the beachhead. The heavy guns were mounted on railroad 
carriages so that the weapons could be hastily run back into tun- 
nels when American planes strafed them. So continuous and destruc- 
tive was the German barrage that food, ammunition, and medied 
supplies could be transported from Naples to Anzio only on LSTs. 
These were operated by crews of which an average of seventy per 
cent were Negroes. A very high percentage of these Quartermaster 
and port battalion troops were killed or injured in the perilous run- 
ning in of supplies, without which the Anzio operation would have 
taken an even greater toll of American lives. 1 found that within 
one week fifty-two members of a single Negro Quartermaster bat- 
talion had been killed and ninety-three injured. But such was the 
determination to prove their ability and courage under fire that 

Good Enough to Unload Ships 257 

the commanding oflScers of these Negro units had difficulty in dis- 
suading Negro soldiers from returning to Anzio from Naples on 
afternoons when they had made the trip the night before. 

But despite the record being made at Anzio and by the 99th 
Pursuit Squadron, the American spreaders of prejudice were found 
to be active even as close to the battle front as Naples. Many of 
the American white soldiers, especially officers, resented the asso- 
ciation between Italian women and Negro soldiers. 

While I was in Naples excellently printed placards twenty-four 
by thirty-six inches in size appeared on billboards throughout the 
city. On translation the words had an ominously familiar tone. They 
demanded that Italian women cease associating with American Ne- 
gro soldiers because, according to the placard, “the Negro is an 
inferior human being” and “must live in America only among his 
own.” Physical violence against any woman who was caught even 
talking to a Negro was threatened, in such phrases as “the machine 
gun will cut down the prostitute who sells the honor of her race, 
and the people will seek revenge upon her and her black son when 
this crime has been brought to light.” 

The placards were purportedly the work of the “Italian- American 
Committee for the Preservation of the Italian Race” and were al- 
legedly authorized by “R. A. Jacono, President.” The Italian offi- 
cials and people with whom I talked were incredulous and indignant 
at the appearance of the cards. Major General Barr, Chief of Staff 
of the Mediterranean Theater, ordered an investigation. It was dis- 
covered that the signs had been printed in a small Naples shop at 
the order of an American Army colonel who paid cash in advance 
for the job. The same colonel, accompanied by two American 
soldiers, carried the placards away in an American Army truck. 
The following morning they mysteriously appeared on billboards. 
General Barr informed me later that three of the culprits had been 
court-martialed and sentenced for violation of the 96th Article of 
War, the catch-all provision which is often invoked when it is 
impossible to make specific charges under other Articles. 

This was but one of several well-organized and financed attempts 
to spread racial hatred against fellow American soldiers which I 
found. Some of them were effective, but most of the Italians, having 

258 A Man Called White 

learned by personal experience or that of friends of the warmheart- 
edness and friendliness of Negro soldiers, refused to believe the 
canard. A few of the top-ranking American Army officials, particu- 
larly Colonel Charles C. Poletti, former Lieutenant Governor of New 
York, who at the time was Military Governor of Naples, attempted 
in every way possible to stop the activities of prejudiced Ameri- 
cans. But the job was not an easy one, since most of the anti-Negro 
propaganda was either conducted by word of mouth or in sur- 
reptitious methods such as by the posting of notices, presumably 
issued by the United States Army, in hotels, stating that no Amer- 
ican Negroes were to be permitted to patronize these establishments. 

I became convinced in Italy of the soundness of the formula 
which has almost mathematical exactitude— that race prejudice flour- 
ishes in inverse ratio to proximity to actual fighting. The pettiness 
of race and creedal differences are sloughed off when men face 
sudden death. Sometimes the cleansing is permanent, but too fre- 
quently for the good of society the fears and prejudices are taken 
on again once the danger is past. 

In Cairo I had one of the most moving experiences of my entire 
trip when I interviewed Felix £bou6, the black Governor General 
of French Equatorial Africa. His story is one of the classics of the 

When France fell in June 1940, like a Japanese paper house in a 
hurricane, the menace of her collapse to the Allied cause was greater 
in French Equatorial Africa than in France itself. Hitler dominated 
North Africa. His plan was to sweep south along the west coast of 
Africa until he captured Dakar, with its magnificent harbor, but 
a short plane jump across the South Atlantic to Natal, Brazil. From 
there he was determined to move northward until the Nazis con- 
trolled all of the northern half of South America. Attack upon the 
United States was to be launched through the Caribbean from that 
perilously close vantage point, simultaneously with an attack by the 
Japanese on the West Coast. 

Had these plans succeeded— and in 1940 who would have dared 
assert they were impossible of achievement?— Hitler would have 
become the ruler of the world. Every leader of France except De- 

Good Enough to Unload Ships 259 

Gaulle conceded that Hitler could win the war. So did the gov- 
ernors of four of the five provinces of French Equatorial Africa. 
The four were white Frenchmen sent from France to rule over 
subdivisions of that vast and rich African colony. The sole ex- 
ception was dark Felix Eboue, at that time governor of the prov- 
ince of Chad, whose strategic location dates back to the days when 
Ovid wrote: “Who holds Chad controls Africa.” Ebou6 refused to 
yield to Hitler even when his wife (later a member of the French 
Chamber of Deputies) and his children were threatened with death 
by Vichy and the Nazis. He rallied the people of his own province 
and persuaded three of his four white fellow governors to stand 
fast despite the utter hopelessness of the situation. The fifth pro- 
vincial governor he imprisoned. DeGaulle and his homeless govem- 
ment-in-exile were invited to use Equatorial Africa as a base. The 
powerful Brazzaville radio station, without which the war in Africa, 
the Middle East, and Europe could not have been prosecuted so 
successfully, was made possible by Eboue’s keeping Equatorial Af- 
rica out of Hitler’s hands. Airfields and roads were constructed to 
get arms, ammunition, food, and medical supplies to the beleaguered 
Allied forces in the Middle East. Troops were trained and later 
made history in the incredible march across desert and mountain 
under General LeClerc to play a crucial role in the battle against 

I spent two fascinating days with M. Ebou6. He had been made 
Governor General of all French Equatorial Africa, but his health had 
deteriorated under the long years of physical and mental strain. He 
was scheduled to go a few days later to Lebanon to rest, and it 
was there he died. But if he had any premonition of his death while 
we were together in Egypt, he gave no sign whatever. He sloughed 
off fatigue and illness whenever we talked of the future of Africa 
and France. Schools, hospitals, irrigation projects, and facilities for 
marketing the minerals and agricultural products of Equatorial 
Africa and raising the living standards of his people were meat and 
drink to him. Once I interrupted his flow of words, meanwhile wish- 
ing fervently that my own country treated its minorities in such 
fashion as to create such loyalty and faith. 

26 o a Man Called White 

“Do you really believe France is going to keep her promises of 
full citizenship and equality of economic opportunity to her colo- 
nials, if keeping those pledges cots down her income from the 
colonies?” I asked him. 

He looked at me almost in anger, as though I had reflected on 
the virtue of his mother, and exclaimed in a voice which brooked 
no pursuance of the subject, “Certtunement!” 

Somewhat later I inquired if the natives of Equatorial Africa, and 
he in particular, as Governor-General, wished or planned to become 
independent of France. Again there was incredulity at such a 

“Indeed, no! We are citizens of France and our loyalty to her 
and her principles of ‘egalite, fratermtS, liberte’ can never be shaken!” 

I was deeply moved by the faith of a man who had altered the 
course of the war by the implicitness of his faith, despite the fact 
that already the white world was forgetting the contribution he 
had made with such selflessness and cost to himself. That morning 
in a Cairo newspaper I had read with sickened heart of a lynching 
in my own country even as it fought a war against the racist theory 
of Nazism. And a few days before I had seen in a sandswept air- 
field in the middle of the Libyan Desert a German propaganda 
leaflet dropped by plane. On it appeared a photograph of an elderly 
Negro being struck full in the face by a brutish member of a mob 
during the Detroit race riots while the Negro’s arms were pinioned 
by two police officers. In Arabic was a hypocritical but effective 
appeal to Arabs to fight the Allies since the picture showed how 
dark-skinned people are treated in “white” nations like the United 
States and England. 

I could not help but remember and be ashamed for my country 
as I saw on M. Ebou6’s face and heard in his voice the reward 
France was reaping for treating this great black man and others 
like him as human beings. 

Even the terrible closeups I had experienced of lynching had not 
been able to shake my love for and loyalty to America. All the 
failures of the democratic ideal when it encountered the color line 
had not destroyed my belief in government of, by, and for the 

Good Enough to Unload Ships 261 

people, or caused me to wish in exchange any form of totalitarian- 
ism, however benevolent its nature or roseate its promises. But 
£bou6 made me wish that the United States were less hypocritical 
and dishonest on the question of minorities so that I could love and 
trust it as much as this man of France loved and trusted his country. 

Eyes on the Negro V ote 

It was a great shock to me on returning home to learn how remote 
the war and its larger implications were to most of the people of 
the United States. This was especially true among the Republican 
conservatives, who were confident that any candidate they chose, 
the more conservative the better, could beat Roosevelt on the 
fourth-term issue. This strange and unjustified complacency was 
particularly noticeable in the attitude of most of the Republican 
leaders toward the Negro vote now that Wendell Willkie had been 

On June 17, 1944, delegates from twenty-five leading Negro 
American organizations met in New York to discuss the situation 
and to thresh out whatever differences might exist in order to en- 
able us to present the legitimate demands of the Negro minority to 
the two major political parties. 

It was a remarkable gathering in many ways. Whatever schisms 
had existed in the past between Northern and Southern Negroes, 
white-collar and laboring colored Americans, and between those 
of differing political beliefs, had been miraculously reduced to a 
minimum by the growing seriousness of die Negro fight and by 
the greatly developed political independence of the Negro. 

We knew that we possessed a potent weapon in the fact that, in 
at least seventeen states with 281 votes in the electoral college, the 
Negro vote held the potential balance of power in any normally 
dose election. We decided to draft an open letter to the Demo- 
cratic and Republican parties which would let them know what 
N^ioes were thinking and also serve as a yardstick to Negroes 

Eyes on the Negro Vote 263 

themselves by which the sincerity of political parties and politicians 
could be measured. 

This statement was agreed to by representatives of twenty-five 
of the largest mass organizations of Negroes in the country with 
a total membership of six and a half million. It said in part: 

In the coming November election, the Negro voter will judge political 
parties, as well as candidates, by their words and deeds as to whether 
they show a determination to work for full citizenship status for thir- 
teen million American Negroes and to better the lot of all disadvantaged 
peoples. Political parties and candidates that seek the votes of Negroes 
must be committed to the wholehearted prosecution of the war to total 
victory, must agree to the elimination of the poll tax by Act of Congress, 
the passage of anti-lynching legislation, the unsegregated integration of 
Negroes into the armed forces, the establishment of a permanent federal 
committee on fair employment practices, and a foreign policy of inter- 
national cooperation that promotes economic and political security for 
all peoples. . . . 

Negroes no longer belong to any one political party. They will vote 
for men and measures. Negro voters played an important part in the 
election of a Negro Communist to the New York City Council, a Negro 
Republican as Judge in the same community, a Democratic Mayor in 
Cleveland, a Republican Governor in Kentucky, and in cooperation with 
organized labor and other progressive forces, in the withdrawal and 
defeat of hostile congressmen in Alabama, Texas and California. . . . 

The Negro people, like all other Americans, recognize the war as the 
chief issue confronting our country. We demand of any political party 
desiring the support of Negroes a vigorous prosecution of the war. We 
are opposed to any negotiated peace as advocated by the Hider-like 
forces within our country. Victory must crush Hiderism at home as 
well as abroad. 

In evaluating the merits of parties and candidates we must include all 
issues— those touching the life of Negroes as a group as weU as those 
affecting the entire country. The party or candidate who refuses to 
help control prices, or fails to support the extension of social security, 
or refuses to support a progressive public program for full post war 
employment, or opposes an enlarged and unsegregated program of 
government-financed housing, or seeks to destroy organized labor, is as 
much the enemy of Negroes as is he who would prevent Negroes from 

We insist upon the right to vote in every state, unrestricted by poll 
taxes, white primaries, or lily-white party conventions, the gerryman- 
dering of districts, or any other device designed to disfranchise Negroes 

264 A Mm Called White 

and other voters. Any political party in power, or aspiring to power, 
must demonstrate its determination through legislation and tl^ough 
vigorous criminal prosecution by the Department of Justice to protect 
and secure voting as a fundamental right of citizenship. 

The ever-serious evil of lynching and mob violence has become more 
critical as a result of unrestrained violence against Negroes in the armed 
services. No national administration can merit the support of Negroes 
unless it is committed to a legislative and administrative program for the 
elimination of this national disgrace. 

The Senate rule requiring a two-thirds majority to limit debate, com- 
bined with the refusal of senators to vote for cloture, has recently pre- 
vented a vote on the Anti-Poll Tax bill. Negroes will not any longer 
accept the subterfuge of those who claim to favor anti-lynching, anti- 
poll tax and other progressive legislation yet refuse to invoke cloture so 
that their votes can be registered. . . . 

The program now being carried on through the Fair Employment 
Practice Committee to secure and protect the right to work without 
racial or religious discrimination must be continued and expanded during 
and after the war. . . . 

No injustice embitters Negroes more than continued segregation and 
discrimination in the armed forces. The national policy of segregating 
Negroes in the armed forces violates every principle of democracy. Any 
party or candidate that hopes to win the support and respect of Negroes 
and all progressive groups must prove their belief in democracy by 
adopting a democratic program for the integration of all Americans 
into unsegregated military forces. . . . 

We are concerned that this war bring to an end imperialism and 
colonial exploitation. We believe that political and economic democracy 
must displace the present system of exploitation in Africa, the West 
Indies, India, and all other colonial areas. We insist that all parties and 
candidates formulate a foreign policy which will recognize China as an 
equal partner with America, England and Soviet Russia, and which will 
resolutely and unequivocally oppose either perpetuation or extension of 
exploitations based upon “white superiority” or economic or political 
advantage to “white” nations at the expense of the two-thirds of the 
people of the earth who are brown, yellow, or black of skin. The United 
States must point the way by including Negroes among its representatives 
at the peace conference or peace conferences and among its diplomatic, 
technical, and professional experts engaged in international post war 

The ftiU text of this statement was published in paid advertise- 
ments in a number of newspapers, white and Negro, and many 

Eyes on the Negro Vote 265 

thousands of reprints were distributed by the participating organi- 

I was also instructed by the NAACP board of directors to appear 
before the platform committees of both political parties to state 
the position of the Association and the church, labor, educational, 
and civic organizations which had joined in drafting the document. 

Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio, it will be remembered, served 
as chairman of the Republican platform committee. He was coolly 
courteous, but some other members of the committee seemed an- 
noyed that Negroes who could neither be cajoled, intimidated, or 
bought should presume to state bluntly the shortcomings of de- 
mocracy from which they suffered and to insist upon corrective ac- 
tion. We had no illusions that the pledges in party platforms would 
be long remembered once the election was over. We were well aware 
of the certainty that the South would block as far as it could even 
mild planks dealing with issues like lynching, the poll tax, segrega- 
tion, or job discrimination. We also knew that the working agree- 
ment between the conservative wings of both parties in Congress 
would cause the Republicans to go no further in their platform than 
the pressure of the Negro vote forced it to go. But we also knew 
that, however coy and indirect the approach to the Negro vote of 
the two parties, each knew that it had to have that vote to win. 

So far as the Republican platform of 1944 is concerned, our ef- 
forts obtained one unequivocal pledge of a federal Fair Employ- 
ment Practice Committee and evasive references to disfranchise- 
ment and lynching. Senator Taft, although he was chairman of the 
drafting committee, subsequently announced that he would not 
vote for the FEPC bill. However, more liberal Republicans and 
Democrats have since made efforts to enact into law prohibition 
of discrimination in employment. 

I was somewhat disturbed on arrival in the United States to learn 
that the annual conference of the NAACP had been scheduled to 
meet in Chicago between the Republican and Democratic national 
conventions. I felt that our conference should have been held prior 
to both conventions, but it was proved subsequently that the choice 
of dates was fortunate. 

It will be remembered that the bitterest fight among the Demo^ 

266 'A Man Called White 
crats in 1944 was between those who feared and hated the liberal 
views of Henry Wallace and those who favored his renomination 
as a candidate for the vice-presidency. I have never seen such cold- 
blooded speculation as there was among the Democrats, particu- 
larly those from the Deep South, as to how many years of a fourth 
term President Roosevelt could last. Intoxicated with power, many 
Southern politicians believed that the vice-presidentid nomination 
could be secured for a conservative Southerner if only Wallace 
could be eliminated. These politicians knew that no conservative 
Southerner could be the presidential nominee or be elected over the 
opposition of Negro and labor votes. They were unwilling to in- 
stitute the reforms which would gain them the support of these 
two powerful blocs. Through naming a vice-president of whom 
they approved, they were confident that they were providing for 
a cooperative president before the term was over. Among the South- 
erners mentioned were Senator John Bankhead of Alabama, Repre- 
sentative Sam Rayburn of Texas, and, as the most likely prospect, 
former Senator James F. Byrnes, who was then director of the 
OfiSce of War Mobilization. 

Thirty thousand persons attended the closing meeting of the 
NAACP Conference in Washington Park in Chicago on Sunday 
afternoon, July i6th. The Democratic national convention was 
scheduled to open the following Wednesday. That morning Mr. 
Byrnes arrived in Chicago by plane from Washington, summoned 
newspaper reporters, and dramatically announced that he was a 
candidate for the vice-presidential nomination on the Democratic 
ticket. The Rebel yell figuratively and in some instances literally 
was loosed in Chicago hotel corridors by Southern delegates. Byrnes 
had been so exceedingly useful to President Roosevelt in steering 
legislation through the Senate and keeping the Southern opposition 
in hand, and had received so much publicity as a member of the 
United States Supreme Court, he and his supporters were certain 
that they could force the President to support him for the post. 
Most of all, they were certain that Byrnes was the one man who 
could insure the displacement of Henry Wallace from the Demo- 
cratic ticket. 

The news of Byrnes’ candidacy, however, was calamitous to Ne- 

Eyes Qn the Negro Vote 267 

groes. His record in Congress had been consistent in only one re- 
spect— that of unrelenting, skilled, and uniformly successful oppo- 
sition to every measure sought by Negroes. He had participated 
in numerous filibusters against anti-lynching legislation. Through- 
out his public career he had made no attempt to conceal his con- 
tempt for Negroes or his conviction that they should be content 
to submit meekly to whatever status they were assigned by white 

The only favorable item, as far as Negroes were concerned, in 
Byrnes’ long public career was a unanimous decision of the Supreme 
Court which he had read while a member of the Court, in the case 
of Ward v. Texas j in which a Negro had been subjected to the 
third degree to extort a confession of rape. The white woman who 
had made the charge had told an incredible story, which included 
the detail that she had pulled a blanket over her during the raping 
because the flies were annoying her. 

The Supreme Court’s reversal of the conviction by the Texas 
court, read by Mr. Byrnes, followed numerous precedents in re- 
versing convictions based on confessions obtained through the third 

The vast audience at the Washington Park meeting listened at- 
tentively to Marshall Field’s analysis of domestic and world prob- 
lems. It applauded enthusiastically when Dr. Earnest A. Hooton of 
Harvard presented the Spingarn Medal to Dr. Charles R. Drew for 
his scientific work on blood plasma. The sun beat down relent- 
lessly as the huge crowd, far greater than that for which we had 
provided seats, waited for a statement of the Association’s position 
on the party platforms and candidates. 

All my colleagues and as many members of the board of direc- 
tors as could be reached had helped in drafting my speech. After 
reviewing briefly the manifestations of revolt against the racism 
and exploitation which had plunged the world into a global war, 
I analyzed the platform of the Republican Party which had just 
been adopted, which pledged a Permanent Fair Employment Prac- 
tice Committee through congressional action on the one hand, and 
on the other advocated the return of the United States Employ- 
ment Service to the control of the states, throwing minorities like 

268 A Mm Called White 

the Negro to the mercy of state oflSicials. GOP evasion or indefi- 
niteness on housing, lynching, and segregation were discussed. 

I then turned to the approaching Democratic convention, and the 
audience laughed and applauded appreciatively when I declared 
that “if you think the GOP platform as dishonest and stupid as I 
do, we ‘ain’t seen nothing yet!’ Wait until the Democrats get going 
Wednesday.” I quoted from the Open Letter of the twenty-five 
organizations of Negroes mentioned earlier in this chapter, and 
warned the Democratic convention that if it nominated a South- 
erner as vice-president it could kiss the Negro vote good-by. 

The tumultuous applause and thundering cheers which greeted 
this statement could leave no possible doubt of American Negroes’ 
feelings in the mind of the observers, both white and colored, from 
both Democratic and Republican parties, whom we had spotted in 
the audience. 

We learned that evening and the next day some of the details 
of the reports which some of these agents carried back to the 
Democratic leaders. There was, of course, no means of measuring 
exactly the effect of the Negro opposition to Byrnes’ ambition, nor 
that of organized labor, especially of the CIO, which was voiced 
later in the week. But it is certain that the pivotal Negro vote in 
key states which would determine whether Roosevelt or Dewey 
would be elected played a not inconsiderable part in Byrnes’ with- 
drawal of his candidacy the following day. 

Neither the war nor the increased strength through organization 
of Negroes and whites against bigotry lessened the determination 
of some members of Congress to “keep the Negro in his place.” 
On the contrary, some demagogues like United States Senator 
Theodore G. Bilbo of Mississippi, Governor Eugene Talmadge of 
Georgia, and Congressman John E. Rankin of Mississippi intensi- 
fied their attacks on minorities. Senator James O. Eastland of Mis- 
sissippi loosed a blistering attack upon Negro soldiers, declaring 
that they had been a total failure. This was hard for me to bear 
because of the recent death in action of my nephew, a fighter pilot, 
who had been shot down in Hungary as he returned from his fifty- 
seventh mission over enemy territory. 

Eyes on the 'Negro Vote 269 

If a casual observer had watched the Senate when the Fair Employ- 
ment Practice Committee came before it, he would have concluded 
that the war had not changed American attitudes on minorities— 
unless to make them even worse. Pressure from the South and even 
from unenlightened businessmen in the North had forced the in- 
troduction of a bill to establish the FEPC as a governmental agency 
authorized by congressional enactment in lieu of one created by 
presidential executive order, in a move to render it ineffective. 
When President Roosevelt attempted to continue the agency through 
appropriations from his contingent fund, congressional enemies of 
governmental prohibition of discrimination in employment attached 
a rider to the appropriations bill for the President’s contingent fund, 
forbidding expenditure of any moneys from that fund for the 

This was done in the face of extraordinary support for a perma- 
nent FEPC by labor, church, minority, and other organizations oper- 
ating through the national committee. Significant fissure in the op- 
position of organized business groups was the support given the 
fight for the FEPC by a number of employers. Among these were 
the Sperry Gyroscope Company, which frankly admitted that prior 
to the establishment of the FEPC they had never even considered 
employment of Negroes, but had found colored workers eminently 
satisfactory after being persuaded by the FEPC to employ them. 

But even such testimony had no effect upon such members of 
the Senate as Bilbo, who became more implacable in their oppo- 
sition because of the rising tide of support for the FEPC and for 
laws to abolish lynching and the poll tax. The entire nation was 
shocked when Bilbo wrote “Dear Dago” and “Dear Kike” letters 
to correspondents whose names indicated Italian or Jewish ances- 
try. But there was one manifestation which indicated that attitudes 
were changing. The torrent of shocked protests from white soldiers 
and sailors overseas as well as from citizens in the United States 
caused me to be almost grateful to the Mississippi demagogue for 
extending the targets of his abuse. 

Even this did not give courage to many members of the Senate 
to answer Bilbo’s tirades. Aided by fellow Southerners like Senator 
Allen Ellender of Louisiana, and the aging Kenneth McKellar of 

J70 A Man Called White 

Tennessee and Tom Connally of Texas, Bilbo launched a filibuster 
against the FEPC bill which tied up completely the “greatest de- 
liberative body in the world” for weeks. 

There was, however, one bright spot during the filibuster which 
marked the growing public sentiment against such legislative farces. 
A sailor, recently returned from the Pacific, attempted to voice 
from his seat in the public gallery of the Senate his objection to the 
spectacle being enacted on the floor below. Instantaneously he was 
hustled out of the gallery by plain-clothes guards. The bewildered 
sailor protested his arrest and heatedly defended his right as a citi- 
zen and member of the armed services to protest against the smear- 
ing of his Negro comrades in arms with whom he had fought 
overseas. It seemed to me a distressing indication of the Washing- 
ton mentality that the sailor was then examined for possible mental 
aberration. There seemed even to be amazement when he was found 
to be perfectly normal and was released from custody. 

Although the protest received headlines in newspapers across 
the country, it had little effect upon the Senate itself. An attempt 
to invoke cloture to shut off the filibuster mustered enough sup- 
port to come closer than had ever been the case before to stop the 
torrent of meaningless words. But the two-thirds vote required was 
not achieved. Despite the unequivocal pledge of the 1944 party 
platform to enact federal FEPC legislation, enough Republicans 
voted against cloture or absented themselves from the Senate floor 
to defeat the motion, which of course was solidly opposed by every 
Southern Democratic Senator except Pepper of Florida and Bark- 
ley of Kentucky. 

Funds were voted to liquidate the FEPC, and the movement 
gained momentum to transfer control from the federal govern- 
ment to the states of the United States Employment Service. Thus 
nearly two years before the end of the war the stage was set to 
place disfranchised Southern Negroes and enfranchised ones in the 
North at the mercy of those who thought them entitled only to the 
most menial and least remunerative jobs. I left for the Pacific won- 
dering how I would answer the questions which would inevitably 
be asked about the prospects of greater opportunity after the war. 

Purity in the Pacific 

The flight from San Francisco to Pearl Harbor in a converted Navy 
bomber was uneventful except for the surfacing of a Japanese sub- 
marine whose antiaircraft guns were too feeble and limited to do 
us damage. When I reported to Navy Public Relations, the lieu- 
tenant commaader who greeted me demanded, “Where in the hell 
have you been? We’ve been expecting you for weeks to do some- 
thing about the trouble Southerners have been causing out here.” 

I burst into laughter as I told my interrogator that I was amazed 
to hear such a statement from one whose accent was so obviously 

He joined me in laughter but there was little merriment in his 

“I’m from Texas and I went home last Christmas for a visit be- 
fore coming out here,” he told me. “A Negro had been lynched 
there just before I arrived and I was shocked and infuriated to hear 
my friends and even members of my own family approve the lynch- 
ing. They did this even though it had been found out after the 
Negro was lynched that he was innocent. It woke me up and I’ve 
been awakened even more by what I’ve seen out here in the Pacific,” 
he added bitterly. 

Joe Magee, the Texas lieutenant commander, proceeded to take 
me under his protective wing although it cost him the friendship 
of some of his fellow officers when it was discovered that I was 
a Negro war correspondent and secretary of the NAACP. If he 
regretted the loss of such acquaintanceships, Joe never showed it. 
We had been instructed before leaving San Francisco that Fleet 

* 7 * 

272 A Mm Called White 

Admiral Chester W. Nimitz received the press only when occa- 
sion warranted and that under no circumstances was any corres- 
pondent to request individual interviews with him. Through Joe’s 
intercession with his fellow Texan I sat down to the first of numer- 
ous and wholly delightful personal interviews with Admiral Nimitz 
within four hours after I had reported to Navy PRO. 

“You and I have had many a quarrel,” Admiral Nimitz reminded 
me, “about segregation and limiting Negroes to service as mess- 
men in the Navy. I was certain— and I am still certain that I was 
right— that in peace time it wasn’t practicable to put Negroes aboard 
ships where they would outrank whites. They would have been 
entitled to promotion on the basis of ability. I knew segregation 
would be both wrong and expensive. But now we are at war— and 
that’s a different story.” 

A KA (cargo-attack) ship was due to arrive in Honolulu within 
a few days, manned by a mixed crew in which Negroes for the 
first time occupied ratings above that of messman. The Admiral 
suggested that I accompany him aboard ship to see how the ex- 
periment worked. The ship arrived on a day when I was on the 
other side of the island of Oahu experiencing my first ride in an 
amphibious truck known as a DUKW. A telephone call came from 
Admiral Nimitz asking me to report to his headquarters without 

Arriving there I found the captain and the first officer of the 
newly arrived cargo-attack boat waiting nervously in the anteroom 
of Admiral Nimitz’ office. 

“I decided not to go aboard because you were not here,” Admiral 
Nimitz informed me, “so I asked the ship’s officers to come up 
here to see us.” 

The interview went well until the ship’s captain, apparently still 
quite conscious of Nimitz’ Texas background, told the Admiral, 
in answer to his questions about the nonsegregation experiment, 
that although men of different races slept in the same quarters, 
he as captain had deemed it wisest, for the time being at least, to 
assign all the Negro crew members to hammocks at one end of the 

“That’s bad. Captain,” the Admiral said. “If you put all the Nc- 

Purity in the Pacific 273 

groes together they’ll have a chance to share grievances and to plot 
among themselves, and this will damage discipline and morale. If 
they are distributed among other members of the crew, there will 
be less chance of trouble. And when we say we want integration, 
we mean integration." 

The captain hastily promised that the “suggestion” of the Admiral 
would be complied with. When I went aboard the next morning, 
I found through inquiry of the crew that there were no longer any 
segregated sections aboard ship. 

There was little, however, that Admiral Nimitz could do, because 
the United States Navy had not trained any Negro ofHcers. In this 
respect it was woefully behind the United States Army, which had 
at least trained Negroes in segregated training schools up to the 
time of establishment of integrated Officer Candidate Schools dur- 
ing World War Two. There were therefore very few Negroes in 
the Navy who were qualified to become either commissioned or 
noncommissioned officers. At the time of my conversation with 
Admiral Nimitz at Pearl Harbor there were only six Negro officers 
in the Navy, three of them ensigns and the highest ranking being 
Lieutenant (j.g.) Edward S. Hope, who had formerly been super- 
intendent of Plant and Grounds at Howard University in Wash- 
ington, D. C., and who was the eldest son of the late Dr. John 
Hope, President of Atlanta University. But at least a start, how- 
ever belated, had been made because Admiral Nimitz, in spite of 
the fact that he was a Southerner, had faced the issue without 

The picture I found in the Army in the Hawaiian Islands was 
considerably less pleasant than that in the Navy, even though the 
latter was far from satisfactory. In contrast with Admiral Nimitz’ 
forthrightness, the policy of Lieutenant General Robert C. Rich- 
ardson, Jr., was to keep Negroes in service units and to use strong- 
arm methods when necessary to prevent clashes between white and 
Negro personnel— his basic assumption seeming to be that, when- 
ever trouble occurred between Negroes and whites, the Negroes 
were invariably to blame. 

I had read many books, articles, and news stories extolling Hawaii 
as having wiped out color distinctions to a greater extent than any 

274 ^ Called White 

other area under the American flag, but I found many disappoint- 
ing evidences that the reports had been too optimistic. Prejudiced 
American whites, although a minority, had demanded that Amer- 
ican Negroes, even though wearing Army and Navy uniforms, be 
excluded from restaurants, hotels, dance halls, and other such places. 
When some proprietors objected to drawing the color line which 
had not hitherto existed, threats were made to wreck their places 
of business. Even more effective was a persistent campaign of anti- 
Negro propaganda among the residents of Hawaii. 

One day while I was in Honolulu a well-dressed and well-behaved 
soldier of the famous 369th Regiment sought to have his picture 
made in a photographic gallery with leis. The dark-skinned Ha- 
waiian girl who was employed to be photographed with customers 
indignantly refused to pose with a “nigger.” Restraining his anger, 
the soldier asked the girl, who was manifestly of Japanese and 
Hawaiian blood mixture, who had taught her to take such an atti- 
tude. Although her skin was darker than that of the Negro soldier, 
she replied that “the American whites tell us that you are inferior 
and that you have tails.” 

This kind of mind-poisoning was successful because the precari- 
ous economic future of the Islands and the desire for statehood 
convinced the majority of Hawaiians that subservience to what- 
ever they construed as the dominant opinion of the United States 
was desirable and necessary. The editorial policy and treatment of 
news concerning Negroes by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin was so 
biased that the anti-Negro stories spread by some Americans were 
given printed confirmation and sanction. 

I was received with elaborate friendliness and courtesy by Gen- 
eral Richardson and his staff, but I never was able to obtain ade- 
quate answers to questions I asked about the courts-martial then in 
progress of seventy-six Negro soldiers of the 1320th Engineer Gen- 
eral Service Regiment. 

The trial was called to my attention by an anonymous note sent 
to my hotel. The writer identified himself as a white enlisted man 
who was so outraged by what he termed “racial injustice” that he 
wanted to see something done to protect the Negro prisoners but 
feared to sign his name lest he be penalized. The courts-martial 

Purity in the Pacific 275 

had been kept so closely guarded a secret that even Lieutenant 
Commander Daniel Armstrong, son of the General Armstrong who 
founded Hampton Institute, and who had been assigned to act as 
my guide, had not mentioned the case to me. 

Company E had been commanded by a Captain Roache, one of 
three Negro officers of the 1320th Engineer Regiment, who had 
been immensely popular despite the fact that he was a stern disci- 
plinarian. The Negro soldiers had worked faithfully, but discon- 
tent had grown as Captain Roache and the other two Negro officers 
remained stationary while less qualified white officer replacements 
were promoted regularly and rapidly. The three Negro officers 
had eventually submitted a respectfully worded request through 
channels that they be given consideration for promotion on the 
basis of merit equal to that which was being given to other regi- 
mental officers. Within due time formal written assurance was 
received that the matter would be handled satisfactorily. A few 
days later the three Negro officers were transferred out of the 
regiment and replaced by white officers, one of whom began im- 
mediately to voice profanely his passionate dislike of Negroes, and 
to demonstrate it in his acts. 

On the evening of the transfer of the Negro officers Company E 
was ordered out of barracks by eight-thirty p.m. to commence 
work. Angered by the treatment which had been accorded Captain 
Roache, and further infuriated by the language and tone of voice 
of the new commanding officer, some of the men refused to fall 
in. Later, however, a colonel, whom the men did not know but 
whose manner was less hostile, ordered the men to go to work and 
to make up for the two hours which had been lost. He assured 
them that if they did do so and caused no further trouble, their 
earlier refusal to work would be overlooked. The men complied 
and believed the matter forgotten until several days later, when 
sixty-seven were arrested, charged with mutiny. Nine more were 
arrested shortly afterward. Sixty-nine of the defendants were found 
guilty and their conviction approved by the Judge Advocate Gen- 
eral of the Pacific Ocean Area. 

Under strict military regulations during war time, refusal to obey 
an order from a superior officer is considered a grave offense. But 

276 A Man Called White 

whatever offense had been committed by the men of Company E 
was mitigated by the whole racial picture in Hawaii, I pointed out 
to such officers of the Pacific Ocean Area as 1 thought it important 
to discuss the case with. When these facts fell on deaf ears, I cabled 
a request to the Secretary of War that the conviction of the sixty" 
nine be reviewed, and that we be permitted to represent them. A 
rehearing was granted, but before it could be held the convicted 
men were released from prison and assigned to a rehabilitation 
company. Lieutenant General Richardson advised me, for “special 
training with a view to their restoration to duty at the earliest pos- 
sible moment and their eventual separation from the services under 
honorable conditions.” This swift corrective action was interpreted 
by most of those who heard of the trial as conclusive evidence of 
the' nature of the facts and the racial attitudes which animated the 

Jimcrow in the South Pacific 

The red-headed Army orderly with a luxuriant Southern accent 
leaned over the bucket seat of the C-54 to point out the tiny green 
and brown speck in the Pacific blue which was Guam. We had 
left Kwajalein sixteen hundred miles behind us the night before. 
A brigadier general and pfc. were asleep on the floor at our feet. 
Considerate of their slumber, the orderly spoke softly about the 
number of times he had made the round trip shuttling back and 
forth between Guam and Kwajalein on an army transport. 

“They almost had a race riot in Guam a few days ago,” the or- 
derly said as casually as he would have mentioned a slight thunder 
shower as being in the natural order of things. 

“Race riot?” I echoed. “What happened?” 

“Oh, some Navy niggers got uppity, but the MP’s cooled them 
off in a hurry,” was the nonchalant reply. 

We landed a short while afterward, dragging our gear out of the 
plane and into a truck under a sun so hot, despite the fact that it 
was two days after Christmas, that it made the earth seem like a 
hamburger grill. We bumped over roads still in the making by 
Seabees and Army engineers until we arrived and reported to Island 
Command. An Army public relations officer escorted me to a tent 
filled with “jungle bunks”— Army cots with mosquito nets— so close 
together that one had to step carefully from his own cot in the 
morning lest his feet collide with the man in the next bunk. I put 
down my barracks bag and mopped the sweat from my face. With- 
out preliminaries of any sort the Army officer, who was, inci- 
dent^y, not from the South but from Pennsylvania, began tell- 

278 A Man Called White 

ing me of the way “niggers” had been “raising hell” on Guam. 

“The black sons-of-bitches are getting out of hand and we are 
going to teach ’em a lesson,” he angrily declared. According to 
the story he told me, all of the white people on Guam of the Army, 
Navy, and Marine Corps had been perfect gentlemen, but the Ne- 
groes had stolen weapons and had gone on a rampage against the 
nice, kind white folks. It was manifest that the officer knew of me 
only as a war correspondent and had not the faintest idea either of 
my race or of my connection with the NAACP, if he knew there 
was such an organization. I decided, therefore, to let him talk as 
freely as he wished so that I might learn the worst. 

Because what I heard and saw during the next few weeks in 
Guam is so tragically typical of the racial practices our country 
transported overseas during World War Two, the story of the 
trouble at Guam in December 1944 deserves recital here. 

At that time the war in the Pacific had moved northward and 
westward to the Philippine Islands. Leyte had finally been taken 
and the mopping-up process of killing or driving into the jungle 
the Japanese yet on Leyte was being completed. Guam was, there- 
fore, the chief base of supply, and frantic efforts were being made 
to speed the building of roads, supply stations, and fortifications. 
The Third Marines were undergoing there at that time final train- 
ing for the assault on Iwo Jima. With the almost superhuman effi- 
ciency of American engineering genius, jungle land had been 
cleared and three magnificent B-29 airfields were being rushed to 
completion. Long, orderly rows of Quonset huts were packed tight 
with ammunition, food, clothing, and medical supplies. Apparently 
endless rows of refrigerators held enormous supplies of meats and 
other perishables. 

But as was the almost invariable rule of the Army and Navy, 
the bulk of the hard, dirty work of construction and handling sup- 
plies had been given to Negroes. There were white construction 
units of the Army and white Seabees in Guam. But there were no 
Negro combat troops of the Navy or Army but only engineering, 
base company, sanitation, and other service units. Combat troops, 
as is their custom, looked with either indifference or contempt on 
noncombat troops, particularly if they were Negroes. But even 

Jimcrov) in the South Pacific lyg 

more provocative than this vi^as the fact that the traditional Amer- 
ican attitudes of race had been brought from the United States to 
Guam, especially among the Marines, many of whom came from 
the South. 

The very efficiency and progress of the transformation of Guam 
into a highly organized military and naval base increased the op- 
portunity of some of the Negrophobes to translate their prejudices 
into action. Thanks to American mechanical equipment, a superb 
six-lane highway was built almost literally overnight from Island 
Command at one end of Guam to the Navy Supply Depot twenty- 
two miles away at the other end of the Island. Near the latter on 
one side of the new road were stationed the camps of four Negro 
Navy base companies. Everybody in Guam worked for long hours 
at top speed during that period, but the Negro base companies 
worked twelve hours a day, seven days a week at hard, sweaty 
work, handling supplies, cleaning up the area, and doing other neces- 
sary but menial chores. None of the excitement or glamour of war 
was theirs. One of the four Negro base companies had been made 
up of so-called “trouble makers” from Esperitu Santo, their last 
base before moving to Guam. It was a case in human society of 
“giving a dog a bad name.” The literacy rate was low, although 
there were a number of men with fair education and some with 
better than fair training and family background. But many a Ne- 
gro was officially and privately classified as a “bad actor” by preju- 
diced superiors when he objected to discrimination or injustice. 
Thus this particular base company was made up of men who felt 
they had been given a raw deal, and who were understandably re- 

But their resentment would probably never have been translated 
into action had not a long series of unchecked and unpunished in- 
sults and attacks been made upon these Negro sailors. Trucks rolled 
night and day along the Agat-Sumay Road from the part of the 
Island where the Third Marines were in training to the supply 
depots at the other end of the Island. Stones, empty beer bottles, 
and other missiles were thrown from the trucks into the Negro 
camp accompanied by such epithets as “niggers,” “night-fighters,” 
and “black sons-of-bitches.” Twice hand grenades were hurled into 

28o a Man Called White 

the Negro camp. On one occasion, one of the Negroes had enough 
presence of mind and courage to pick up the hand grenade and 
throw it into a ravine back of the camp where it exploded a few 
seconds later. On the other occasion, injury or loss of life was 
prevented only by the fact that the grenade was a dud. 

Near the Third Marines encampment was located a fuel dump 
where vast quantities of hundred-octane high-explosive gas was 
stored. One day a live grenade was thrown into the camp from 
a truck by four Marines. A tragedy was averted by one of the Ne- 
gro soldiers who picked it up and threw it into a ravine outside 
the camp before it exploded. On another day a smoke bomb was 
thrown into the fuel dump. One of the Negroes working there 
smothered the bomb before it could explode. 

And as in the United States, sexual jealousy and rivalry played 
a major role in fostering racial conflict. 

Many of the Americans, particularly Southern-bom Marines, bit- 
terly resented the sight of a Negro talking to a female Guamanian. 
Small gangs of Marines began to run Negroes out of Agana— or 
what remained of that town, which was the largest on Guam be- 
fore it was leveled by the sixteen inch guns of the American Navy. 
Negroes at first reported the attacks on them by whites to their 
commanding ofiicers. Instead of acting to protect their men, these 
officers sought to cover up the attacks or to justify them. Negroes 
learned that it was a waste of time even to report the insults and 

Events rapidly approached a climax on the afternoon of Christ- 
mas Eve, 1944. A group of Negroes had obtained liberty passes and 
had gone into Agana, where they were fired upon and driven out 
of town. Eight of them got safely back to camp. A ninth had dis- 
appeared. It was assumed that he had been injured or killed. Some 
forty men piled into two Navy trucks and set out for Agana to 
find their comrade. But a Negro assistant master-of-arms telephoned 
Military Police in Agana to inform the authorities that Negroes 
were headed into town. A road block was thrown up and the 
trucks stopped. When the men learned that their missing com- 
panion had not been killed or injured but instead had hidden in 
8 ditch until nightfall and then had made his way back to camp. 

Jimcrow in the South Pacific 281 

the Negroes climbed aboard the trucks and returned to their area. 

Shortly after midnight a truck filled with white Marines drove 
into the Negro camp. The Marines angrily alleged that one of their 
number had been hit by a piece of coral thrown from a truck by 
a Negro. The spineless and scared white commanding officer of 
the Negro company, instead of arresting the men who were shout- 
ing threats that “if you don’t do something about this, we are go- 
ing to take the matter into our own hands,” pleaded with the 
Marines to go away, which they finally did. 

The invasion of the Negro camp shortly after midnight occurred 
just as the night crew came off duty and was going into the mess 
hall from which emerged the crew going on duty. Thus it was 
only a matter of a few minutes before all the Negroes in the four 
base companies knew about the invasion of the camp and the weak- 
ness on the part of their commanding officers. Apprehension 
mounted steadily throughout Christmas Day. Shortly before noon 
two intoxicated Marines shot and killed a Negro sailor. He and 
two companions were walking down the road past a native house. 
The Marine emerged, saw the three Negroes, whom he had never 
seen before, and went back into the native house to emerge with 
a carbine, which he raised to his shoulder and fired. On the after- 
noon of Christmas Day a white sailor shot and seriously wounded 
another Negro sailor. Neither of them had even been arrested when 
I reached Guam two days later. 

Around nightfall, a jeep with a machine gun mounted on it drove 
past firing into the Negro camp and returned again firing. Guards 
who had been posted somewhat belatedly around the Negro camp 
returned the fire as did some of the Negro sailors. By this time the 
camp was in a state of almost hysterical apprehension. Negroes fired 
on a jeep containing two military police, which many of the Ne- 
groes believed was the same jeep which had fired into the camp 
shortly before. One of the MP’s was injured. Again Negroes 
climbed aboard two trucks and set out for Agana. Again a road 
block was thrown up and this time all of them— forty-four in num- 
ber— were arrested. The next morning a shakedown was given to 
the Negro camp. A considerable number of weapons, some of them 
handmade in the form of knives, and others stolen from the Navy 

282 A Man Called White 

Supply Depot, were found. A number of the Negroes later testi- 
fied that, despairing of any protection from the responsible authori- 
ties, they had been driven to the conclusion that they could hope 
for no protection save that which they gave themselves. 

The book was thrown at the forty-four men arrested at Agana. 
Among the crimes charged against them were unlawful assem- 
blage, rioting, theft of government property, and attempted murder. 

Either because they were too busy or had not taken the trouble 
to find out what had been going on even on so small an island as 
Guam, the Island authorities had done virtually nothing up to that 
time. Then suddenly they awoke to the explosive character of the 
situation and a Navy Board of Inquiry was ordered before which 
I was invited to appear as an “expert witness” on race relations. 
The presiding officer of the three-man Board was a Marine colonel 
from South Carolina. His associates were a lieutenant colonel from 
New York and a Navy lieutenant from Philadelphia. The Judge 
Advocate or prosecutor for the Navy was a lieutenant commander 
who had practiced law for nineteen years in Dallas, Texas, whose 
attitude toward Negroes was traditionally Southern despite the 
fact that not infrequently he invited me to the Navy Officers’ Club 
for a drink after adjournment of Court. 

Toward the end of my testimony, the Judge Advocate, Lieu- 
tenant Commander James Swift, asked me if it were not true that 
I held the degree of Doctor of Laws. I admitted this to be true. 

“Then you are competent, aren’t you, to represent the defend- 
ants in this case, as defense counsel?” 

I hastened to explain to him that the degree of Doctor of Laws 
(given to me by both Howard and Atlanta Universities) was an 
honorary one and did not mean that its possessor had any knowl- 
edge of the law. To this he replied that procedure in the Navy 
Board of Inquiry was more informal than legalistic and that I did 
not have to be a lawyer to serve as defense counsel. My first im- 
pulse was to decline, for I did not want to jeopardize the legal rights 
of any defendant because of my ignorance of the law and of Navy 
court-martial procedure. I suspected, as well, that the request for 
me to serve was at least in part based upon a determination to ex- 
cuse whatever convictions or sentences might be imposed by say- 

Jimcrov} in the South Pacific 283 

ing that there could have been no injustice because the secretary 
of the NAACP had represented the accused. But as the words were 
forming on my lips, I looked at the forlorn and pleading faces of 
the defendants. They appeared to say, and later some of them did 
put their inner emotions into words, that they were without friends 
on Guam deep in the Pacific and if I failed them by refusing to 
do what I could, they were without hope, since there was no 
one else they trusted to do so. 

I stated to the Court that I would serve as defense counsel if the 
Court and the Judge Advocate would agree officially for the record 
that no legal right of any of the defendants would be abridged or 
jeopardized by my ignorance of the law and that I be given com- 
plete latitude and not held strictly to legal procedure in the intro- 
duction of testimony or the examination and cross-examination of 
witnesses. The Court inquired as to the extent of the latitude desired. 
To this I replied that what had occurred on December 24th to 26th 
could not be isolated but was a direct outcome of the attacks which 
had been made on Negro service men over a period of many weeks 
and of the racial attitudes of Negroes and whites which had devel- 
oped out of racial proscription in the United States. Somewhat reluc- 
tantly the Court agreed to the stipulations. 

And then began one of the most trying and revealing experiences 
of my life. The Judge Advocate was an able lawyer and was as- 
sisted by a younger man who was also well versed and experienced 
in legal procedure. I had no assistants or investigators. The Judge 
Advocate also had at his disposal all of the confidential records of 
the Navy from which I was barred by Navy regulations and cus- 

The Court sat during the day, so that the only time left for me 
to do my own work of locating witnesses and evidence was after 
nightfall, which required going through areas where American sol- 
diers had quite recently been ambushed and either killed or wounded 
by Japanese lurking in the vicinity. (There were still 40,000 of them 
on the Island, hiding in the jungle, getting what food they could by 

But, despite the difficulties, the job had to be done as best it could 
be done. For three weeks, witness after witness told the story either 

284 A Man Called White 

from the white or the Negro angle with varying degrees of veracity. 
As I look back on it, the abysmal failure of both civilian and military 
America to face the race question honestly was epitomized by the 
testimony of a handsome, sensitive young Negro whose deep ivory 
skin and wavy dark brown hair reminded me of my own son. He 
had come to me and requested an opportunity to tell the Board of 
Inquiry what he had seen and experienced in Guam. The lad had 
been bom and lived all of his nineteen years in an Eastern seaboard 
city. His parents were fairly prosperous and highly respected citi- 
zens. Earnestly and simply the young man told a straightforward 

He said he had voluntarily enlisted in the Navy on his seventeenth 
birthday “to help my race and my country.” Almost savagely, the 
Judge Advocate jumped on the young man’s sequence of desire for 
service, challenging him, “So you place race above country, do 
you. 5 ” 

And then the Judge Advocate demanded, “Isn’t it trae that you 
have been convicted before Captain’s Mast [informal Navy hearing 
before the Captain] and served sentences for violation of Navy 

This was a bolt from a clear blue sky. I whispered to the Judge 
Advocate a request that I be permitted to examine the records of the 
Captain’s Mast to learn the circumstances. This request was curtly 
refused by the prosecutor who suggested, “Ask him yourself to find 

It was a tough decision to make. The young man’s honest and 
open countenance might be deceptive. My querying him as defense 
counsel might put damaging evidence into the record of some crime 
or at least of moral turpitude. But I decided to take a chance any- 
way because the Judge Advocate’s question and the young man’s 
afiirmative answer would look bad in the record and weaken the 
story he had told up to that point which had been most moving in 
its recital of the slurs and discriminations to which Negroes in the 
Navy, eager to serve their country, had been subjected. So I asked 
the questions which brought forth answers which explained in part 
the Judge Advocate’s refusal to permit me to see the record. 

Here are the “crimes” for which the young volunteer had been 

Jhncrow in the South Pacific 285 

convicted and sentenced on each occasion to five days in solitary 
confinement on bread and water. One of them had been committed 
when he, after completion of boot training at the Great Lakes Naval 
Training Station in Illinois, had been ordered to service in the Navy 
Mine Depot at Yorktown, Virginia. One day he had boarded a bus 
within the Naval reservation in which, in accordance with Virginia 
law, a sign hung from the roof of the bus separating white from 
Negro passengers. As eleven of the seats to the rear of the sign were 
filled, the young man sat under the sign, part of his body being in 
the “Negro” section and part in the “white” section. The bus driver 
had driven the vehicle to the nearest shore patrol and caused the boy 
to be arrested, as a result of which he was convicted and sentenced. 
The other “crime” had been his entering a “white” restaurant in 
Virginia to purchase food. 

Jubilant at the results of my fishing expedition, I asked the young 
man if in his native city he had been accustomed to patronizing res- 
taurants and other places of public accommodation and if he had 
ever had to conform to jimcrow laws in public conveyances. The 
answer had been that until ordered to Virginia, he had never been in 
the South before in his life. 

After I left Guam, the recommendations of the Board of Inquiry, 
despite the evidence, resulted in courts-martial and the sentencing of 
all forty-four men to prison terms, which, happily, were later re- 
versed when we appealed the convictions. But we had to take the 
cases all the way to the Secretary of the Navy and the White House 
to achieve this. 

A story I wrote in Guam on January 20, 1945, was passed by 
the censor before I left the Island and a promise was made to me that 
it would be cabled to the New York Post at once. 

Fully aware that no dispatch telling the full story would ever be 
passed, I wrote my story as carefully as possible and leaned over 
backward in understatement. But it was never published. When I 
returned to the States some months later, I learned that the New 
York Post had never received it. 

I found out what had happened to it only after I had told the 
story of the trouble on Guam on a nation-wide broadcast, my 

285 A Man Called White 

speech having been passed without alteration by both Army and 
Navy censors in the United States. Several days later I received a 
photostatic copy of the story which is for me one of the most amus- 
ing examples of the stupidity of military censorship I have ever 

“For Release July ii, 1945” is written in large letters above my 
typed “Guam 20 January 1945” and the release date of July ii is 
written in again four additional times in a three-page story. 
Throughout the story were interpolated phrases such as “I was 
told,” “reportedly” and “allegedly.” 

I had written that the officer who had so spinelessly submitted to 
threats and abuse from enlisted men of the Marines had been re- 
lieved from duty following the Naval Board of Inquiry hearings. 
The censor had inserted “steps having been taken before the holiday 
incident,” which I know was false. A general closely identified with 
the affair had told me that nothing had been done against the officer 
until the facts were uncovered in the hearings because the officer’s 
unfitness was not known until that time. 

There were other alterations and insertions of the censor’s per- 
sonal opinions— and prejudices— which would be ludicrous were not 
the episode and circumstances so filled with tragedy and oppression. 

Later, in Leyte, I first ran into the oft-repeated and completely 
unjustified canard about the cowardice shown by Negroes of the 
93rd Division. A public relations officer who believed that I was 
just another white newspaper correspondent went out of his way 
to tell me that Negroes were no good in combat. I asked him on 
what evidence he based his statement, and he told me that in the 
invasion of Bougainville the 93rd had been given an easy beachhead 
to take, but that the division had broken and run under fire, “caus- 
ing death to many officers and men in the white divisions on either 
side of them.” 

I traced the story carefully, looked into the records, and talked 
with the commanding general of the 93rd (who was a Texan), to 
a brigadier general who had been with the division at Bougainville, 
and with officers of the white units who had been with the Negro 
division. The truth was that the 93rd had not been in the original 
invasion, which had taken place in October 1943, but had been sent 

Jimcrov) in the South Pacific 287 

in in March of the following year, after the island had been declared 
“secure.” The 93rd had been given the task of pushing back the 
perimeter of the Japanese line, driving it deeper into the interior. 
The infantry had done a routine, but competent, job. The 93rd 
artillery, however, had been officially cited by General Dunckel of 
the 37th Division for the excellence and accuracy of its firing. 

The story had apparently come from an actual instance in which 
the cowardice of a white officer had disorganized the men under 
him. A white captain had disobeyed orders to attack a Japanese posi- 
tion on either or both sides of what was roughly a horseshoe area. 
He had ordered his men to attack down the center. Doing so, they 
had found a much larger number of Japanese than scouts had re- 
ported. A Negro lieutenant and thirteen of his men had been 
killed. The captain had thereupon become hysterical, given conflict- 
ing orders, and eventually had fled in terror back to the safety of 
the command post far in the rear. He was quietly transferred to an- 
other division instead of being court-martialed. 

My investigation also revealed that the 93 rd, like other divisions 
in the Army, had been used as a promotion mill and a dumping 
ground for white officers who had failed in other divisions. Many 
of them were prejudiced against the men under their command, 
which the men were not long in sensing. After Bougainville, the 93rd 
had been broken up and relegated to unloading ships and other 
menial chores. 

When I got to Luzon, and saw General MacArthur, I told him 
of the maligning of the 93rd Division and other Negro troops and 
the conditions which I had found. He told me of having served with 
the 24th Infantry in his youth and of his high regard for the fight- 
ing ability of Negroes. He questioned me closely about the morale 
and the possible effect on the fighting ability of the 93rd as a result 
of the Division’s performing Quartermaster and port battalion duties 
for so long a time as to make them rusty in combat. 

He assured me that the Division would be almost immediately re- 
assembled as a unit and given refresher courses in combat so as to be 
used in action as soon as practicable. I think that at the time he 
meant it, but except for mopping up duties on the Island of Morotai, 
the 93rd Division was never used in any major engagement. 

j88 a Man Called White 

MacArdiur promised to stop the practice of dumping on the 
93rd officers who had been failures with other divisions. Some other 
officers had remained in the 93rd Division only long enough to 
achieve far more rapid promotions there than were possible in other 
divisions. Not all of these men were inefficient but unfortunately 
most of them were. Their rapid advancement had an effect on the 
morale of qualified Negro officers which needs no description here. 

In Pacific Islands such as Dutch New Guinea I saw, as I had seen 
in North Africa, how swiftly the brave, beautiful promises bom of 
fear of defeat in war were forgotten as soon as fighting ceased. But 
I also was stirred by the devoted and brilliant work of scientists in 
conquering the tropical diseases which have kept millions of human 
beings from achieving their fullest development. 

I worked and lived for some weeks with the 93rd Division, but there 
was time, fortunately, to leam about other things which were hap- 
pening in Dutch New Guinea. By this time 1 had grown weary of 
battle operations and of the equally difficult struggle with Army 
and Navy censors to get passed by them any but the most innocuous 
stories. I found myself becoming increasingly interested in the kind 
of life which would be established in these far-off places by the 
colonial powers. I had read the sweeping promises made by Queen 
Wilhelmina in London, promising on behalf of the Netherlands 
Government in Exile citizenship and better educational, health, and 
economic opportunities to the Dutch colonials after the war. 

One day John Dos Passos and I went to see a new tropical hos- 
pital for the natives which had recently been erected not far from 
Hollandia. Set in a clearing surrounded by towering trees, it was a 
pleasant place although quite different from any hospital we had 
ever seen in the States or Europe. There were four large buildings 
of bamboo with thatched roofs and open sides. The beds were of 
bamboo with wooden pillows and no mattresses or linen. There 
were about a hundred patients and a daily average of two hundred 
out-patients were treated by a staff consisting of one Javanese doc- 
tor, two white Dutch nurses, and about a dozen native nurses. Two 
blond rosy-cheeked young Dutch civil servants guided Dos Passos, 

Jhncrow in the South Pacific 289 

several medical officers of the 93rd Division, and me proudly 
through the buildings. 

I told the civil servants how delighted I was to see Queen Wil- 
helmina’s promises being put into practice and congratulated them 
on the fact that the Dutch government was spending money on im- 
provement of health conditions and facilities in New Guinea even 
before the Netherlands were rebuilt. To my surprise he smiled dep- 
recatingly and told me, “It isn’t our money we are spending— we 
got this from your government through Lend-Lease.” 

I asked him, somewhat taken aback, how many additional hospitals 
were contemplated and was told that no more were being planned. 

“We’ve got a small hospital in Hollandia [which I learned later 
was used almost entirely by Dutch officials] and these are sufficient 
for the Island.” 

I could see no brave new world for the many thousands of disease- 
burdened natives with only a hundred or so beds available. 

Dos Passos then asked him what would be done about education 
and received the airy reply, “We’ll continue to let the missionaries 
supply schools.” Our questions as to the number of schools and the 
type of education supplied in them received the vaguest of answers 
and subsequently I saw no schools outside of Hollandia. 

Our questions about plans to raise the living standards and 
economic status of the natives were treated with equal casualness. 

“America is too far away to be a profitable market for the fruits, 
grains, and vegetables we could raise here in abundance. There are 
great possibilities in the mineral and natural gas resources which we 
will exploit after the war because our government will need every 
guilder it can obtain to restore our homeland.” 

As to native self-government which Queen Wilhelmina had 
promised, we were told, “We don’t intend to do anything about that 
because we can rule the natives much better than they could rule 

The civil servants were neither evil nor unkindly men, but it was 
not reassuring so far as solution of the rapidly rising demands of 
colonials for freedom was concerned. 

Later with the aid of interpreters I talked with some of the native 

290 A Mm Called White 

leaders. Isolated from the world, they were far less educated and 
in touch with the trends of world politics than the natives of other 
Dutch colonies like Java, Sumatra, and other units of Indonesia. But 
the war for human freedom had penetrated even into the most re- 
mote areas where neither newspapers, radio, or the omnipresent 
movies had reached before the war. These native leaders revealed 
only a meager knowledge of the details of the war, but they knew 
as clearly as any European or American the significance of the war 
to their own welfare. I found it both futile and unnecessary to spend 
much time attempting to convince them that I too belonged to a 
“colored” race. But they seemed in some uncanny way to sense 
that my questions were motivated by sympathy and honesty and 
they talked freely of the kind of world they were determined to 
achieve. They dreamed of freedom not only because the Japanese 
had done an excellent job of propaganda about the racial arrogance 
and imperialism of the white man, but because they were tired of 
being exploited. 

It is not difficult for me to imagine from these conversations what 
these native leaders thought when later American airplanes, tanks, 
and guns bearing the familiar insignia of the United States Army 
were used by the Dutch and British in a futile effort to crush the 
independence movement in Indonesia. The white world had used 
the creative genius of mankind to make a word called “freedom” a 
dream and a goal wherever men live. All the war weapons now in 
existence or which may be devised will never be able to stifle the 
demands of non-white as well as white men for a more decent and 
just way of life. We seem so pathetically and abysmally unable to 
comprehend this simple fact. 

Shortly after I reached Hollandia I met Major Hildrus Poindexter, 
a gifted Negro scientist, who reminded me of the late Dr. Robert 
Russa Moton of Tuskegee Institute. He had recently been awarded 
the Bronze Star for reducing the malaria rate in the Solomon Islands 
by 86.4 per cent in three months. He had done important work in 
the diagnosis and treatment of schistosomiasis, a disease which had 
taken heavy toll of American soldiers, caused by a tiny worm enter- 
ing the bloodstream; was a holder of three degrees from the medical 

Jimcrow in the South Pacific 291 

schools of Harvard and Columbia universities; and, having done ex- 
tensive research in tropical diseases at the Institute of Tropical Medi- 
cine in San Juan, Puerto Rico, had taught for fourteen years in the 
medical school of Howard University in Washington. But his major 
passion was doing all that he could and learning as much as possible 
about tropical disease, which he believed to be the principal cause 
of the backwardness of dark-skinned people living in tropical coun- 

Major Poindexter and I talked often of his specialty and plans. 

“Because of my conviction that tropical disease is the largest han- 
dicap of the darker races of the world who live in the tropics,” he 
told me one day as we sat in my tent, “I plan to devote my life to 
fighting it. Men with too much brain damage from sleeping sickness 
cannot think. Men suffering from malaria are too anemic to work. 
The muscles of men with hookworm are too flabby. Men who can- 
not think or work cannot contribute to civilization or compete with 
other men.” 

I found that even Major Poindexter’s ability and devotion did not 
exempt him from the evil effects of prejudice. He expressed an al- 
most heartbreaking eagerness to work in the Army Medical Labora- 
tory which had been set up there because he believed that in the 
laboratory he could obtain the most practical experience with tropi- 
cal maladies to be gained anywhere in the world. 

The commanding officer was a kindly man, but he was from 
Kentucky. Both his education in medicine and his scientific con- 
tributions were considerably less than those of Major Poindexter. He 
freely expressed his admiration for the Negro doctor’s ability when 
I talked to him a few days later, adding “and Major Poindexter 
works three times as hard as any of us and all of us work hard!” 

The commanding officer, however, feared that some of the white 
officers would object to Major Poindexter’s eating in the general 
mess hall and occupying a tent in Officers’ Row. 

The device to save the sensibilities of the white officers turned 
out to be one of those contradictory and ludicrous color-line strata- 
gems, particularly as it had bearing on the hysterical fears of some 
white people regarding sexual relations between white women and 
Negro men. A special tent was erected for Major Poindexter at some 

292 A Man Called White 

distance from those of the white officers, but the isolated tent was 
placed near the quarters where the white nurses lived and was so 
remote, I reminded the commanding officer, that “you won’t be 
able to keep as close an eye on Major Poindexter as you would if he 
were billeted with the other officers ” This seemed to disturb the 
commanding officer, and shortly afterward Major Poindexter was 
assigned a tent close to that of the CO himself. 

The eating arrangements in the officers’ mess were solved in an 
amusing way by the arrival of Surgeon General Normal Kirk on a 
tour of inspection of the Pacific Islands. In General Kirk’s party was 
an officer who demanded immediately upon arrival that he be per- 
mitted to see Major Poindexter to get him to check certain state- 
ments in an article for a scientific journal which he had written. The 
conference in the office of the commanding officer lasted all morn- 
ing until time for luncheon. Impatient at the interruption, the officer 
who had accompanied General Kirk told Major Poindexter that they 
would continue their discussion over the luncheon table. There was 
no alternative to inviting Major Poindexter to join the official party 
at the commanding officer’s table. 

Thereafter Major Poindexter ate at that table because, as the com- 
manding officer explained to me, “I felt I did not have the right to 
force any of my subordinates to eat at the same table with Major 
Poindexter, but I do have the right to invite whom I please to eat 
at my table.’’ 

In Australia, from Prime Minister Curtin and other officials of 
the Australian government I met at Canberra to barmaids and taxi 
drivers in Sydney, I encountered the familiar stories of bewilder- 
ment at the incessant conflict between white and colored American 
soldiers. I was forced to spend almost an entire afternoon answering 
questions from members of the Australian Sociological Society about 
ffie race question in the United States when I was much more eager 
to ask them questions about Australia and especially the “white Aus- 
tralia” policy. The American Red Cross had pursued its policy of 
setting up segregated clubs even though by that time the war had 
moved so far from Australia that relatively few American troops 
were left there. Again I encountered traces of the stories by some 

Jimcrow in the South Pacific 293 

American whites that all Negroes had tails and belonged to a lower 
order of human kind indistinguishable from the Australian bushmen. 
But many of the Australians had met and learned to know and to 
like the American Negro soldier. Learning that many of them were 
graduates of high schools, colleges, and universities had offset the 
falsehoods about Negro ability and behavior. Prime Minister Curtin 
told me he personally opposed any change in the “white Australia” 
policy so far as orientals were concerned, but that the impression 
which many of the American Negroes had made in Australia had 
caused him and others to favor a change in the regulations to permit 
American Negroes to settle there if they desired. 

If these incidents— and many like them could be added— give a 
gloomy picture of the treatment accorded Negro troops in the 
Pacific, I have precisely accomplished my purpose. 

The rigid pattern of segregation, the virtually unbroken custom 
of assignment of Negroes to service units, the heritage and pattern 
of prejudice brought from the United States was altered only in 
isolated instances where in athletics, music, or other diversions, 
Americans— white and black— were permitted to escape segregation 
and learn to associate as normal human beings joined in a common 

It was this pattern which was responsible for the cynical remark 
I heard so often from Negro troops— “We know that our battle for 
democracy will begin when we reach San Francisco on our way 

Cloudy Tomorrow 

The special train arranged by the State Department for diplomats 
and correspondents from all over the world en route to the founding 
meeting of the United Nations at San Francisco was a delightful 
contrast to the privations I had so recently known in the Pacific. 
Dr. W. E. B. DuBois and I were attending the conference as consult- 
ants to the American delegation. Unlimited quantities of tender beef 
replaced the tough and tasteless hot cakes which were invariably icy 
cold and which I was sure were served no less than eight days a 
week. On the train one would never have suspected any shortage 
of cigarettes or Scotch from the quantities available. Fm afraid that 
Dr. DuBois and I received far more than was justly due us when our 
identity became known to the Negro waiters and porters. 

But even more satisfying were the eager questions of the journal- 
ists and other writers from foreign countries which manifested how 
world-wide had become the recognition of the supreme importance 
of finding a way for the different races of men to live together in 
peace. All the way across the country we talked morning, noon, and 
night in an effort to explain how a country with such vast human 
and material resources, famed for its generosity in times of disaster 
and unquestionably believing the statements it was so addicted to 
making concerning democratic and Christian principles, could at the 
same time permit the continuance of bestialities based on hate and 

Our attempt to explain the contradictions of American action 
seemed increasingly futile at the first meeting of consultants with 
the American delegation at the Fairmount Hotel atop San 


Cloudy Tomorrow 295 

Francisco’s Nob Hill. Handsome Edward Stettinius, Secretary of 
State and chairman of the United States delegation, told the group 
the position the United States planned to take on the crucial issues 
which were expected to arise. The very presence of the consultants 
represented a new and, most of us thought, a decidedly refreshing 
note in American diplomacy. The variety of organizations repre- 
sented there ranged in political and economic orientation from quite 
conservative groups like the National Association of Manufacturers, 
the United States Chamber of Commerce, the American Bar Asso- 
ciation and the American Medical Association, to women’s, labor, 
and racial organizations. These included the CIO, the AFL, the Gen- 
eral Federation of Women’s Clubs, the American Jewish Committee, 
and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored 

Never before on so important an occasion involving fundamental 
issues had there been such close affiliation between government— 
especially the State Department— and large mass organizations rep- 
resenting nearly ninety million Americans. It was excellent public 
relations, but it soon became apparent that as far as the “career boys” 
of the State Department were concerned, the consultants were in- 
tended to be merely window-dressing. But there were two men 
there who felt otherwise. Although the conservative press sneered at 
Mr. Stettinius’s Long Island society, and Archibald MacLeish’s 
poetry and “New Deal” backgrounds, these two State Department 
officials won the respect and affection of most of us because it soon 
became manifest that they genuinely desired the ideas and criticisms 
of the consultants and did not regard them as necessary nuisances. 

Fireworks erupted at the first meeting of delegations and con- 
sultants when Mr. Stettinius, apparently nervous and embarrassed 
at being required to make such a report, announced that the Ameri- 
can delegation had decided neither to introduce nor support a hu- 
man rights declaration as an integral part of the charter which the 
nations had gathered to draft. All of us sat in stunned silence. I sat 
next to the representative of the National Association of Manufac- 
turers, who seemed as much shocked as any of us. I thought of 
Vernon Bartlett’s statement in Tomorrow Always Comes of the 
disastrous effect upon the entire world if the United States de- 

296 A Man Called White 

manded and then did not use the moral leadership which its re- 
sources and geographic position gave to it as to no other nation. 

I thought of the pathetic hordes of Jewish, Catholic, and Protes- 
tant victims of Hitlerism as they wandered homeless and starved and 
hopeless through the war-devastated countries of Europe. I remem- 
bered demolished Manila and the faith of the guerilla fighters of the 
Philippines who, having endured incredible hardship in fighting the 
Japanese invaders, believed implicitly when I had talked with them 
only a few days previously that the United States would do all it 
could to build a better and more just world. I remembered the Jews 
in Palestine, the impoverished Arabs in the Middle East and North 
Aifrica, and particularly the black natives of Africa who had told 
me of their dreams of a world after the war which would live up 
to at least some of the beautiful phrases of freedom in the Atlantic 

Dreading the answer I knew I would receive, I asked what posi- 
tion the American spokesmen would take on the issue of colonies. 
I learned afterward from him that I was not in error when I thought 
I saw on Stettinius’s face acute embarrassment at having to answer 
that question. His face reddened as the Secretary of State admitted 
that the delegation thought this basic cause of war— the fight for 
raw materials and markets, as well as the “right” to exploit colonial 
peoples— ought not to be taken up at San Francisco, but postponed 
to some vague date in the future. 

The consultants were so dismayed by the weakness of the Amer- 
ican .representatives that the considerable differences in ideological 
viewpoints among us were wiped out almost completely in our 
common determination to muster the not inconsiderable strength of 
our respective organizations. Each of us had special axes to grind in 
our individual and organizational interests. But a remarkable phe- 
nomenon developed as each of us in his own way realized that 
inevitable failure of an international organization would result if 
the nations of the earth, particularly the United States, played 
politics of the prewar variety and permitted the old national rival- 
ries to operate again despite the most devastating war in human his- 

'Hie consultants were driven into closer unity by rumors of the 

Cloudy Tomorrow 297 

position which Senator Connally took on the proposal to establish 
an international office of education. His elevation by longevity of 
service in the Senate to the immeasurable power of Chairman of 
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had in no wise, obviously, 
altered the views which the Texas senator had belligerently and 
interminably voiced during Senate filibusters against anti-lynching, 
anti-poll tax, and fair employment practice legislation. We were 
informed that in executive committee meetings of the American 
delegation, Connally had bitterly fought American support of an 
international office of education because, first, he did not propose to 
permit “Sovietizing” American education, as though that were pos- 
sible, and second, because he feared this might mean interference 
with racial segregation in the schools of Texas, and that, he declared, 
would not be tolerated. That day I felt almost ill that American 
participation in the building of a warless world could thus be lim- 
ited by race prejudice. 

The consultants had been informed that one of the chief reasons 
for their appointment was the desire of the State Department that 
they act as spokesmen to keep the members of their organizations 
informed on progress at San Francisco so that public opinion in sup- 
port of the international organization could thereby be created. We 
agreed among ourselves, therefore, to keep not only the members 
of our organizations informed, but the public as well. There was 
immediate reaction to this plan and the press and radio reports. An 
alarmed and highly vocal public opinion began to make itself felt. 
The American delegation began to edge warily toward a stronger 
and more definitive position on human rights, proposals for trustee- 
ships to replace the mandates and protectorates of the Versailles 
Treaty and the League of Nations, and other procedures needed to 
make the flowery phrases in praise of freedom more nearly a reality. 

It was quite evident throughout the Conference that those who 
thought to outmaneuver the United States, and frequently succeeded 
in doing so, counted on use of the circumstance that the hands of 
the United States were far from clean. This was especially true with 
respect to the treatment of minorities. Little effort was made to con- 
ceal faintly cynical smiles when American spokesmen talked of jus- 
tice for all men. As we learned to recognize each other during the 

298 A Man Called White 

weeks which the Conference lasted, representatives of various na- 
tions asked me questions at meetings, receptions, and in the lobbies 
of the official hotels. Many of these queries were startling in their 
revelation of how detailed was the knowledge about internal affairs 
in the United States, even of events which had occurred during the 
war when censorship had been in effect. On several occasions I 
was embarrassed when I discovered that some of my questioners 
possessed more exact knowledge on the activities and objectives of 
anti-foreign-bom, anti-Semitic, isolationist, and other subversive 
groups in the United States than I did. 

But most of the questions were motivated by genuine bewilder- 
ment that the United States would permit so complacently the 
spreading of division and hate among its own people. Some said 
frankly that Americans were so friendly and generous that they 
found it impossible to believe the reports they had heard even when 
they had read them in American newspapers. There was almost a 
pathetic eagerness to hear me deny the reports because they did not 
want their faith in the one nation which could supply leadership 
to be destroyed or diminished. Frequently I found my voice filled 
with a somewhat hollow ring as I mustered all possible evidence of 
American opposition to bigotry, even as I was forced to admit 
the existence of sizable fissures in democracy as practiced in the 
United States. 

I left San Francisco to fill speaking engagements about the Con- 
ference and what I had seen in the Pacific with very mixed emotions. 
Clark Eichelberger, who has devoted nearly all of his adult life to 
the cause of international organization for peace, and I talked 
nearly all the way to New York as our plane sped eastward. 

The United Nations Charter, which was then about completed, 
was, we felt, like most other documents based on compromise, an 
imperfect instrument but the only hope of peace then visible on the 
horizon. The pressures of the colonial powers and the cloakroom 
appeals to the preservation of white overlordship had been disas- 
trously effective in preventing adoption of any really effective ma- 
chinery to wipe out colonialism. Clark was more optimistic by far 
than I was of any material change in die colonial system or improve- 
ment of the status of natives under the trusteeship plan which had 

Cloudy Tomorrow 299 

been reluctantly incorporated in the Charter. The objectives of the 
trusteeship system were beautifully and admirably phrased— to pro- 
mote the political, social, and educational advancement of depend- 
ent peoples and render assistance in development of the ability for 
self-government of natives. The Trusteeship CouncU set up in the 
Charter, made up of an equal number of member nations with so- 
called trust territories and of nations not holding such territories, 
was authorized to receive reports from administering nations, hear 
petitions from the trust territories, and to inspect them. The bitter 
fight over the latter provision had been revelatory in exposing the 
reluctance of not only colonial powers, but of other nations to 
permit even inspection, much less correction of evils. This did not 
portend any more improvement in the lot of natives than the system 
of mandates and protectorates. I was even more pessimistic because 
of the explicit provision that no nation was obligated to place a 
colony or dependency under United Nations trusteeship, such action 
being wholly permissive. It was certain in my mind that no nation 
would voluntarily surrender the economic or military benefits from 
a land until such benefits had either been exhausted or revolt by the 
native population forced the colonial power to relinquish the terri- 
tory. I could sec only trouble ahead but I did not know how soon 
and in what widely separated parts of the world, such as Southwest 
Africa and Palestine, trouble would erupt. 

President Truman asked me to come to the White House shortly 
after I reached New York. In a way I dreaded going there to find 
no longer the skillfully genial Roosevelt. Something of the same 
thinking appeared to affect Mr. Truman, as he referred constantly 
to “the President” when speaking of his predecessor. He asked me 
innumerable questions about the San Francisco Conference and did 
not seem happy over the somewhat pessimistic report I gave him. 
He promised to consider the recommendation I made that when he 
flew to the Conference a few days later for the signing of the 
Charter, he boldly proposed the immediate calling of another inter- 
national conference to deal specifically with the problem of colonial- 
ism and human rights. I was strongly of the opinion that a bold 
stroke of that sort would give the United States the moral leader- 
ship on these two basic issues which it had not taken at San Francisco 

300 A Mm Called White 

in the drafting of the Charter. Whatever might have come of such 
a proposal is admittedly problematical. But the United States would 
have thereby placed upon each nation which voted against imme- 
diate and decisive facing of these issues the moral responsibility and 
blame for postponement of action. 

Freedom House-Warming 

There were some compensations, however, which raised my spirits 
when I returned to New York. Thirty-six years of quiet but steady 
building of a genuinely mass organization, supported in the main 
by its membership, had begun to show phenomenal results. The 
NAACP had grown past the half million mark, adding, in 1945 
alone, 170 new branches to bring our total of branches, youth coun- 
cils, and college chapters to more than twelve hundred. 

Our staff at the national office had so increased that we had long 
since outgrown our quarters in the rather down-at-heel loft build- 
ing at 69 Fifth Avenue. But despite its shabbiness the years of strug- 
gle during which we had occupied space in the antiquated structure 
had created such affection for the building and the neighbor- 
hood that it was hard to think of leaving it. We tried to purchase the 
International Ladies Garment Workers’ six-story building on Six- 
teenth Street, which that remarkable union had outgrown, but an- 
other organization beat us to it. It had been our plan to name the 
building as a memorial to Wendell Willkie. While we were consid- 
ering this move, George Field of Freedom House, of whose board 
I was a member, came to see me. He proposed that we— Freedom 
House, the NAACP, and the outstanding organizations representa- 
tive of Willkie’s major interests— join in purchasing a building which 
would be a living memorial to him. We liked the idea. I have always 
shuddered at the usual method of perpetuating the memory of an 
individual by marble or metal statues or by other useless and usually 
hideous memorials. Most of the available places we found were 
cither inadequate of space, obsolescent, or located too far from the 


302 A Mm Called White 

centers of activity to make the building the meeting place we wanted 

it to be. 

Eventually George Field learned that an ideally located building 
opposite the New York Public Library on Fortieth Street, which 
had formerly been a club but which was now owned by the Schen- 
ley Company, might be purchased. When the owners were told 
the purpose for which the building was to be used, an extraordi- 
narily generous price was made and we set about raising the funds 
to purchase and remodel the property. Spyros Skouras of the 
Twentieth Century-Fox Company, of whose board of directors 
Wendell Willkie had been chairman, and others with means, con- 
tributed generously. Willkie would have appreciated this evidence 
that the principles for which he stood and fought so vigorously, 
particularly during the later years of his life, had so impressed them- 
selves upon men like Skouras that they wanted to continue the 
fight. But I am sure that he would have felt even happier because of 
the contributions of small sums made by a large number of the so- 
called little people of America who sent what they could to the 
fund. I was especially pleased that more than thirty thousand dol- 
lars was raised with little effort through branches of the NAACP 
as an expression of the gratitude Negro and white members of the 
Association felt toward Willkie. 

There were a few moments when I personally was almost tempted 
to abandon moving to more adequate and centrally located quarters. 
One of these times was the day Jim, the self-effacing and friendly 
superintendent of the shabby building at Fourteenth Street, was tak- 
ing me to the fourth floor in the creaky elevator which happened 
that day, miraculously, to be running. Jim asked me in a voice filled 
with need of denial of the story he had heard, if we were really 
going to leave. When I told him that we were planning to make 
a change, his eyes grew misty as he urged me to reconsider the 
decision since “the building won’t be the same without you,” add- 
ing, “Everybody in the neighborhood will miss you when you’re 

Across the street from our old office was a typical New York 
combination of restaurant and bar where magnificent hot pastrami 
sandwiches and kosher dill pickles and marvelous salami delicately 

Freedom Home-W among 303 

flavored with garlic were menu stand-bys. Dave, the proprietor, 
was an ebullient naturalized Russian who had begged me, when I 
planned to go overseas, to take him to Russia with me as my inter- 
preter, despite my telling him that because he had become such a 
capitalist since coming to America as a boy, I doubted he would be 
admitted to his homeland. Although I knew the not inconsiderable 
amount of money which our staff— now grown to more than seventy 
—spent in the establishment, was a part of the regret at our depar- 
ture, it was very evident that more than monetary loss motivated his 
sorrow. The party he gave for us turned out to be more a wake than 
a celebration. 

Our new quarters in the Wendell Willkie Memorial Building, 
luxurious in comparison with our old Fourteenth Street offices, al- 
most immediately became as overcrowded as the old ones had been. 
The phenomenal growth of die Association and the shifting nature 
of the problems we sought to solve made it necessary for us to add 
new departments and new personnel. I often thought of race preju- 
dice in terms of a bit of mercury— when one attempts to pin it down 
by pressing upon it, it scurries off to appear in another place. We 
were being deluged with appeals from Negro soldiers and sailors 
who had been convicted in courts-martial and who begged us to 
aid them in obtaining reconsideration of their convictions. Much 
of the working time of our recently established veterans’ bureau in 
Washington, under the direction of Jesse O. Dedmon, ex-Army cap- 
tain, and almost the full time of another veteran, Franklin Williams, 
in the legal department of our New York headquarters, were de- 
voted to the examination of the voluminous records of these cases 
and the appealing of those which were found meritorious. 

Appalling defects in the administration of military justice were 
discovered in many of these cases. The same discovery was made 
in other cases handled by the veterans’ committees which were or- 
ganized by many of the NAACP branches. The helplessness and 
hopelessness which many of the Negroes who fought in World War 
Two experienced in far places of the world was pathetically reflected 
in many of these cases. The considerable success of the appeals we 
made in behalf of these men reflected only relative credit on us; 
in most of these cases the injustices were so patent and flagrant, a 

304 A Man Called White 

scandal would have been created by refusal to reverse conviction. 
But the work required great care and the expenditure of consider- 
able time and money to obtain justice. 

Two other problems— jobs and housing— snowballed in importance 
after V-E Day and after it was apparent that the war in the Pacific 
could not last much longer. 

For a time after Hiroshima, Americans could talk or think of lit- 
tle except the new power which science had given them. But the 
implications of that power on national and racial issues seemed ap- 
parent to only a few of the most intelligent individuals. The conserv- 
ative coalition in Congress began to labor industriously, now that 
the danger of military defeat of the Allies was ended, to indulge in 
anti-labor tirades and machinations and to return to the states con- 
trol of employment and other matters upon which the existence of 
minorities depended. The greatest advances in employment which 
the Negro had made during the war had been in shipyards, airplane 
factories, and other plants making war materials. When these 
plants ceased operation Negroes were the chief sufferers. Down- 
grading in jobs in other plants became the rule so far as Negroes 
were concerned, with but few exceptions. The predicted slump in 
overall employment in America did not materialize and even 
Negroes continued to have jobs, but usually at lower wages and 
requiring inferior skills. We therefore added a labor department to 
the Association’s activities and placed in charge of it Clarence 
Mitchell, who had had excellent training and considerable experi- 
ence in the War Manpower Commission and the Employment 
Practice Committee when those agencies were in existence. 

We were forced also to devote increasing attention to the ques- 
tion of housing. After we had won in the United States Supreme 
Court in a case arising in Louisville, Kentucky, a sweeping decision 
outlawing racial segregation by means of dty ordinances or state 
laws, a new device to confine Negroes to ghettos had been con- 
cocted. Property owners in increasing numbers began to write 
into deeds clauses prohibiting the sale or rental to or occupancy by 
Negroes on pain of forfeiture or other monetary penalties. Soon 
such covenants against other minorities began to appear. At first the 
restrictions were set at a period usually of ninety-nine years, but 

Freedom House-Warming 305 

when the United States Supreme Court on two occasions evaded 
the handing down of definitive decisions on such covenants, the use 
of such restrictions spread throughout the country in the absence 
of court prohibition of their use. 

It was obvious to us that the Negro would soon be as ghettoized 
as the Jews of Poland if the practice were not stopped. No valid 
argument except the moral one could be effectively presented 
against an individual’s refusal to sell a plot of land to, for example, 
anyone he did not want to sell the property to as a Jew or Negro 
or Episcopalian. But we felt that no person had a right to covenant 
against the purchasing of land after the covenanter had sold the 
property or died. Most reprehensible of all was the demand that 
the machinery of government, and particularly the courts which 
exist through the taxation of citizens of every race and creed, 
should be called upon and required to enforce private agreements of 
this character. 

At the outset of our campaign against covenants we had to go 
it alone. We found many instances of such restrictions against 
Negroes by judges, educational institutions such as the University 
of Chicago, and so-called “property owners’ protective associations,” 
and others. It was not until such covenants began to spread to other 
groups that recognition of their danger to democratic society and 
the necessity of fighting them became more widespread. 

More and more, during the war, as the migration of Negroes from 
rural to urban communities and from south to north continued, and 
as the demand for labor increased, these covenants and the virtual 
cessation of home-building imposed unbearable hardships on 
Negroes. Because they could not buy or rent dwelling places in the 
open market, they found increasingly difficult and expensive the 
purchase or rental of any but obsolescent dwellings. Ill health, 
juvenile and adult delinquency, frayed nerves, and increasing dis- 
content inevitably followed. Only rent controls of the Office of 
Price Administration and the gradual breaking down of segregation 
by means of public pressure in housing projects financed by the 
federal and some of the state governments presented any hopeful 

I remembered a conversation which I had had some years before 

3o6 a Man Called White 

with Langdon Post when he had headed the New York City Hous- 
ing Authority, and wondered why more public officials did not pos- 
sess the inquiring mind and courage which he had exhibited. He 
telephoned me one day during the period of selection of tenants 
for one of the first and largest public housing projects in New York 
City. He wanted advice regarding nine Negro families which had 
met all the requirements for admission. 

“What do you think will happen to these nine Negro families,” 
he asked, “and do you think the Housing Authority should submit 
them to possible and probable acts of hostility from some of the 
white people in the project?” 

I told him that the decision should be made not by the Housing 
Authority or by me, but by the nine Negro families. I expressed 
doubt that there would be much, if any, hostility in a metropolitan 
city like New York and suggested that if any white tenants did 
object their apartments be given to others on the long waiting list. 
The Negro families were admitted and were soon accepted by their 
neighbors without friction of any sort. 

I recalled this experience not long ago when the mayor of Chi- 
cago became alarmed by the threats of a mob made up of individuals 
from another part of Chicago against the admittance of Negro vet- 
erans to a public housing project for veterans in that city. He sought 
to persuade the Chicago Housing Authority to abandon its no- 
discrimination policy, but fortunately without success. Thus faced 
with the necessity for action, the mayor supplied police protection 
and the threatened rioting subsided. 

Our legal department and the board of directors decided to at- 
tempt a third time to present the restrictive covenant issue to the 
United States Supreme Court in the hope that a definitive ruling 
could be obtained from that tribunal. Not only was the national 
office flooded with appeals from Negro prospective home buyers 
but so were our branches from Los Angeles to Long Island. We 
ventured to hope that the considerable changes in the composition 
and the philosophy of the Supreme Court, particularly in its greater 
concern with human as contrasted with property rights, would re- 
sult in a clear ruling on the issue. The brilliant work in presentation 
to the Court of a considerable number of cases by young Negro 

Freedom House-Warming 307 

lawyers like William H. Hastie, Leon A. Ransom, Charles H. 
Houston, George M. Johnson, W. Robert Ming, Jr., Loren Miller, 
and others, as well as Thurgood Marshall, had created a profound 
respect for NAACP attorneys. We have made almost a fetish of 
careful preparation so that none of the issues we present to the 
Court can be dismissed because of defects in the record or argu- 

We were loath to confine our approach to the purely legal one 
because the social and economic consequences of covenants seemed 
to us to be an essential part of the question. We therefore spent 
considerable time and thought in preparation of a sizable portion 
of the brief devoted to the socio-economic factors in housing, par- 
ticularly insofar as housing was worsened by racial restrictive 
covenants. We were fortunate in having the assistance, in addition 
to our own staff, of outstanding sociologists and economists such as 
Dr. Robert C. Weaver and Dr. Louis Wirth of Chicago. 

The results of our combined legal and other research produced, 
in 1938, a brief in one of the covenant cases arising in Detroit which 
competent lawyers characterize as one of the ablest presentations 
ever made in a court of law. 

^^Read and Run^^ 

The increasingly shorter interval between wars had enabled the 
world to see all too vividly that once men have been taught that 
mass killing is both necessary and noble, it is almost impossible to 
unteach them in the art of murder. Blood lust and hatred cannot 
be shut off as simply as one turns off a faucet. After the First 
World War there was a terrible succession of race riots and lynch- 
ings by civilian mobs. Some of the lynchings had been of Negro 
soldiers to demonstrate that Negroes must neither seek nor expect 
the “social equality” which they had experienced in France and 
other European countries. 

During the Second World War we heard many disturbing rumors 
that a number of Southern cities and towns and a few in the North 
had invested huge sums in machine guns, grenades, tear gas, armored 
trucks, and other riot-quelling equipment. This material was to be 
used, as some of the officials of these cities and towns frankly 
admitted, in case of trouble caused by two groups— Negro veterans 
and organized labor. 

I was permitted to see the variety and quantity of the preparations 
which had been made by one Middle West industrial city. There 
had been a sudden shift of police commissioners. The new commis- 
sioner had been a long-time friend of mine and he invited me to visit 
him the next time I was in his city. When I did so he showed me 
enough guns and ammunition to cause me to feel that I was over- 
seas again in a battle area. “My predecessor bought all this,” he told 
me, “to take care of any ‘bad niggers' who come home with any 


^‘Read and Run'^ 309 

fancy ideas about occupying a different status from that they knew 
before they left.” 

A new technique, according to quite authentic rumors which we 
checked as thoroughly as possible, was to be used. As soon as any 
trouble threatened, especially where Negro veterans were involved, 
a cordon of policemen, deputy sheriffs, state highway patrolmen, or 
National Guardsmen would be thrown about the Negro section. If 
this show of force did not quell the trouble, whatever peace officers 
had been assigned to the job were to move into the Negro area with 
blazing machine guns to put the fear of the law into any Negroes 
who refused to be cowed. Not only legalized violence of this char- 
acter but mass arrests with the imprisoned held incommunicado and 
whatever other methods were necessary to break the spirit of 
Negroes or organized labor were to be used. Those who planned 
such handling of racial or union trouble were certain that no general 
criticism would be leveled against them since everything had been 
done by officers of the law in a perfectly “legal” manner. 

We had to wait only six months after V-J Day to learn where the 
first attempt would be made to implement this plan. I was awakened 
early one morning by a long-distance telephone call from Nashville, 
Tennessee. In near-by Columbia, my caller informed me, state 
highway patrolmen were riddling Negro homes and business estab- 
lishments to quell an “armed insurrection” by Negroes. I was aboard 
the first plane on which I could obtain a seat out of New York 
for Tennessee. But action had to be taken even more quickly than 
a plane could get me to Tennessee, if anything was to be done to 
prevent murder and destruction. Fortunately Donald Jones, one of 
our field secretaries, was at the time in Chattanooga conducting a 
membership drive. I telephoned Donald to tell him about the trou- 
ble and to ask him to locate if possible a trustworthy white lawyer 
who could be engaged to get to Columbia as quickly as possible to 
protect the interests of the beleaguered Negro citizens. 

“I know just the man for the job,” Donald almost shouted. “He 
is Maurice Weaver, a young Navy veteran who had just resumed 
practicing law here in Chattanooga.” A few hours later Weaver 
was on his way to Columbia. Feeling was running so high in the 
little country town that no Negro lawyer could have entered it 

310 A Man Called White 

without grave danger. Even Maurice’s white skin and Southern 
birth were insufficient to save him from threats of being killed. As 
soon as he made it known that he had been employed to represent 
io6 Negroes who had been arrested and denied permission to see 
either attorneys or families, local hostility grew to such an extent 
against him that his life was constantly in danger. But neither vio- 
lence nor the threats of violence had the slightest effect upon the 
young Tennessean. It was my impression that Maurice reveled in 
the danger as did Z. Alexander Looby, West-Indian-bom member 
of our national legal committee, who was engaged with Weaver 
as our Tennessee counsel. 

The violent outburst had developed out of circumstances which 
were so simple and ordinary that the extent of the damage done was 
a remarkable barometer of the fear and prejudice which haunted 
the community. Mrs. Gladys Stephenson, an exceedingly quiet col- 
ored woman who cooked for one of Columbia’s leading white fam- 
ilies, had gone with her nineteen-year-old son James to a local radio 
repair shop to pick up a portable radio which had been left there 
for repairs. Although he was only nineteen years of age, James was 
a three-year veteran of the Navy, having served most of his enlist- 
ment in the Pacific. In the shop an argument arose when the proprie- 
tor demanded a sum more than twice what he had estimated the 
work would cost. To avert trouble Mrs. Stephenson paid the larger 
sum, only to discover that the radio would not work. When she 
insisted that the repairs for which she had paid be made, the pro- 
prietor and another white employee of the store became infuriated 
and began striking and kicking the colored woman. James rushed 
to his mother’s rescue and knocked one of the men through a 
plate-glass window, injurying him slightly but not seriously. 

At this point, police officers who had been attracted by the 
altercation arrested, in typical Southern fashion, Mrs. Stephenson 
and her son instead of the white assailants. News of the altercation 
spread rapidly through the small town and threats of lynching be- 
came so prevalent that the sheriff advised respected and well-to-do 
Negroes of Columbia who sought to post bail for the Stephensons 
to let them remain in jail for safety. Later in the day, however, the 
sheriff telephoned Sol Blair, wealthy patriarch of the Negro com- 

^^Read and Ruri^ 

3 “ 

munity, to urge him to post bail and arrange to get the Stephensons 
out of town before nightfall as a mob was forming to storm the 
jail. The sheriff also urged seventy-six-year-old Sol Blair and other 
Negro leaders to close all business establishments in the Negro 
neighborhood at nightfall and to advise all colored people to remain 
in their homes. 

Shortly after dark a mob attacked the jail and dispersed only when 
convinced that the Stephensons had been spirited away. The only 
two members of the unmasked mob who were arrested were men so 
intoxicated that they were unable to walk. These two men were al- 
lowed to sleep it off overnight in the jail and were released the 
following morning. 

Somewhat later several police officers started to drive down the 
darkened main street of the Negro section. A voice shouted, ‘‘Here 
comes the mob now!” and a volley of shots aimed at the automobile 
rang out, wounding two of the policemen. Additional highway 
patrolmen were ordered to the scene to strengthen the cordon 
around Mink Slide, the name which Negroes resented but which 
the white Columbians derisively applied to the ghetto. Just before 
daybreak the peace officers moved in, raking Negro homes and 
stores with streams of gunfire. Plate-glass windows and mirrors 
were demolished. The office of a Negro dentist and all of its ex- 
pensive equipment was smashed beyond repair, and the desk, type- 
writers, and files of the local office of an Atlanta insurance company 
were destroyed. Cash registers in stores were looted, ice cream and 
other food consumed, and cigarettes and cigars confiscated in various 
Negro stores. Watches and other jewelry, fountain pens, and other 
valuables were openly and unashamedly stolen from Negro homes 
as the helpless owners watched the looting. 

We had to apply for writs of habeas corpus before we were 
even allowed to talk to the imprisoned Negroes. Two of the io6 
who were arrested were shot and killed in the jail for “attempting 
to escape” and for “attempting to kill police officers” in a room of 
the jail thronged with heavily-armed policemen and deputy sher- 
iffs. Thurgood Marshall arrived a day or two later to arrange with 
Maurice Weaver and Alexander Looby for the difficult and per- 
haps perilous trial ahead. Meanwhile I devoted the major portion 

312 A Man Called White 

of my time to an effort to arouse and coordinate public opinion, 
white and Negro, for the defense. Before leaving New York I had 
telegraphed Governor Jim McCord, requesting an appointment to 
discuss the Columbia situation. The Governor’s office telephoned 
me shortly after arrival that he would see me that afternoon. I 
asked Reverend William J. Faulkner, dean of the chapel of Fisk 
University, and Z. Alexander Looby, Nashville attorney and mem- 
ber of NAACP national legal committee, to accompany me. We 
arrived at the Governor’s office a few minutes ahead of the ap- 
pointed hour and were greeted in peculiar fashion by an opinionated 
and verbose young Southerner who introduced himself as Bayard 
Tapley, secretary to the Governor. His manner toward me was one 
of scant courtesy, but it was insulting to the two darker-skinned 
men with me. 

“These fellows with you?” he asked me, as though they had no 
business in the Governor’s office. When I told him that they were 
present at my request, he informed me that the Governor was not 
feeling very well but would see me for a few minutes but that 
“he cannot see these other fellows any time.” 

His face flushed angrily when I informed him that unless the 
Governor could see all three of us I did not care to talk with him. 
Grudgingly he ushered us into the Governor’s office, sat down at 
the head of the table, and put his feet atop it. The Governor en- 
tered the office a few minutes later and sat quietly as Tapley dom- 
inated the conversation. He proceeded to inform us that he had 
evidence that the Negroes of Columbia, Tennessee, and “niggras” all 
over Tennessee and the United States, had been purchasing huge 
quantities of arms to stage an uprising. When Mr. Looby chal- 
lenged this statement and cited in disproof of the allegations the 
fewness of the weapons found in Negro homes, Tapley burst into 
a rage. 

Tapley ’s mind was no match for that of Alexander Looby, who 
again and again caught him in contradictions. On one occasion the 
secretary could answer only by shouting, “Don’t you tell me what 
I said! I’m telling you what I said!” 

It became necessary eventually for me to tell Tapley sharply 
that I had not come to the Governor’s office to hear him talk but 

^^Read and Ruri^ 


wished instead to secure the Governor’s attention. Later newspa- 
pers published a story to the effect that I had made the statement— 
which I had not made— that though we had not seen eye to eye 
with the Governor, “after hearing the facts” we thought the situ- 
ation had been handled rather well. Neither the anti-Negro 'Nash- 
ville Banner or the slightly more liberal Tennessean printed a con- 
tradiction of Tapley’s statement which we requested, although the 
Tennessean promised to do so. Although I had encountered many 
Southern officials similar to McCord and Tapley, this experience 
stands out as one of the most disheartening of its kind. 

The details of the court actions which followed are too numer- 
ous to permit recital here. But the story is one of as great hard- 
ship and bigotry as has ever attended a court trial in the United 
States. At the same time it was dramatic evidence of how human 
decency can rise above environment. We moved for a change of 
venue from Columbia because it was evident that the inflamed state 
of public opinion made a fair trial impossible there. Our contention 
was proved accurate when two of the defendants were tried and 
swiftly convicted, although their convictions were later set aside on 
appeal. Twenty-five of the defendants were granted a change of 
venue with what must have been malicious joy to the prosecution. 
They were ordered tried at Lawrenceburg— in which no Negro was 
permitted to remain overnight. Until a short time before the trials 
were ordered there signs had been posted on roads into the sleepy 
hamlet reading nigger, read and run. don’t let the sun go down 


The twenty-five defendants had to travel one hundred miles 
daily on the round trip from Columbia to Lawrenceburg and re- 
turn. Each day of the trial, the lawyers, including Looby, Ransom, 
and Weaver— who being white might have been able to find lodg- 
ings at Lawrenceburg, but who chose to share the hardships of 
his Negro fellow attorneys— traveled two hundred and six miles 
between Nashville and Lawrenceburg, 

Not only were they unable, as were the Negro newspapermen, 
to remain overnight in Lawrenceburg, but they were unable to 
secure food or drinking water or even to use the toilets. Room had 
to be reserved in each car for luncheon baskets and kegs and ther- 

314 A Man Called White 

mos bottles of drinking water. It is doubtful whether any other 
trial in the history of America was ever conducted under more 
explosive conditions. Open threats were made by the unshaven, 
overall-clad spectators that the lawyers who dared defend Negroes 
would wind up in Duck River, a stream near Lawrenceburg which 
the lawyers had to cross twice daily between Nashville and the 
scene of the trial. The judge and prosecuting attorney played 
openly upon the prejudices of the jury and audience. Every pos- 
sible opportunity to refer to “niggers” and “damyankees” and the 
Reconstruction Era was utilized. An attempt was made to inject 
the issue of “communism” into the trial. At the outset not one of 
the major press services or newspapers paid attention to the trials 
with the exception of the anti-Negro Nashville Banner, whose re- 
porter made no secret of his prejudice against Negroes, and the 
Communist Daily Worker, whose correspondent Harry Raymond 
wrote brilliant factual accounts of the trials. 

I was desperately concerned at the indifference toward the trial 
and its significance. A pattern of police and public behavior was in 
process of formation which would be disastrous for the country 
as a whole if not exposed and stopped. We decided to attempt two 
remedies. We first invited a group of organizations and distin- 
guished individuals to meet in the Willkie Building in New York 
to discuss the situation. We included not only minority, church, 
labor and other groups concerned with the problem of civil liber- 
ties, but a number of employer, newspaper, and other more con- 
servative groups which we felt should be concerned with this is- 
sue. Most of the latter sent regrets— to our own regret. Again I 
was depressed with the apparent blindness of those who should 
have been concerned, if only for reasons of self-interest, with at- 
tacks upon the democratic process. I wondered again when they 
would awaken to the realization that unless they fought for the 
principles in which they believed those principles would be de- 
stroyed by inanition. 

But fortunately a very representative group gathered to form 
die National Committee for Justice in Columbia, Tennessee. The 
cochairmen chosen at the meeting were Mrs. Roosevelt and Dr. 
Channing H. Tobias of the Phelps-Stokes Fund. Because the han- 

“Read and Run^^ 


dling of the legal defense in the case was satisfactory to the Com- 
mittee it was decided to concentrate on two tasks which needed 
desperately to be done— obtaining more adequate and impartial 
press coverage, and the raising of funds for the defense. But we 
soon learned that we were caught between two opposing forces 
and that the consequences of their actions would have to be reckoned 
with. One of these, of course, was the determined group in Tennessee 
which looked for political, racial, and other reasons, to do everything 
in its power to obtain convictions. The other group was made up of 
Communists and Communist-sympathizers who had an impassioned 
interest in the cases but at the same time were more concerned with 
using the plight of the defendants for Communist purposes than they 
were with seeing the Negroes free. 

The danger from the latter quarter appeared immediately when the 
Civil Rights Congress announced that it had “signed up” two of the 
defendants and wished on that basis to appear on a coequal basis in 
the cases. The chief spokesman for the Congress was George Mar- 
shall, son of the late Louis Marshall. The charge had been made that 
prominent members of the Congress had Communist affiliations. We 
knew that our already difficult task would be made doubly difficult 
if any Communist or Communist-front organization participated in 
the defense. The same question arose when a sincere Washington 
woman, herself of Southern birth and convinced thereby that every 
possible ally was needed in the struggle against Southern reaction, 
urged that the Communist Party be invited as one of the cooperating 
defense organizations. 

Mrs. Roosevelt bluntly opposed such a step. She pointed out that 
the Tennesseans who were bent upon conviction of the accused 
Negroes and perpetuation of “white supremacy” would like nothing 
better than to be able to pose as the defenders of Tennessee against 
communism. We were in total agreement with her position. It was 
obvious that the odds against us were already so great that any addi- 
tional handicap would almost certainly seal the doom of defendants 
who were wholly ignorant of the fantastic charges which had been 
made against them. 

Just as we believed that this problem had been licked, we found 
that there were new complications from this direction. I received an 

3i6 a Man Called White 

alarmed telephone call from Nashville that Robert Minor had gone to 
Columbia and formed at a Negro church an “Independent Voters 
League.” Bob Minor is a gentle, affable, and courageous individual, 
completely and honestly devoted to communism. But we were in- 
formed that his connection with the Communist Party had not been 
divulged by him to the colored citizens of Columbia with whom he 
had talked convincingly about the corruption of the Crump political 
machine in Tennessee and the necessity of forming an independent 
political movement. Here was a friendly white ally who used none 
of the patent condescension which most white Tennesseans manifest 
toward Negroes. He was trusted and his suggestion of a voters’ league 
was adopted. Handsome and patriarchal Sol Blair, the seventy-six- 
year-old chief defendant, was elected as president of the Voters’ 
League and all of the other officers were codefendants with Blair. 

News of the formation of the organization was seized upon glee- 
fully by the Nashville Banner and the prosecution as conclusive 
“proof” that Tennessee was about to be taken over by the Commu- 
nist Party. I talked frankly with Mr. Blair and other officers of the 
League. I pointed out that the idea of an independent voters’ league 
in Tennessee was an excellent one, but that to organize such a move- 
ment under Communist auspices was a tragic mistake, particularly 
while the trials were pending. I advised that the defendants and the 
Negro citizens of Columbia disband the organization and reform it 
under auspices completely independent of any political party at a later 
date. But even as I gave this advice, which was followed, I again was 
depressed with the failure of non-Communist political parties who 
said they believed in the democratic process to demonstrate as much 
concern with, and freedom from, race prejudice as did the Com- 

Equally trying was the task of convincing press services and news- 
papers of the necessity of intelligent and unbiased coverage of the 
trial. The Associated Press was using the very biased stories of 
the prejudiced Nashville Bcmner reporter, when mention was made of 
the case at all in AP dispatches. The United Press had no reporter 
present at the outset of the trial. Appeals which I made to both news 
services appeared to have little effect. We were appalled by the reali- 
zation that a procedure of legalized mob violence was in the making 

^^Read and RurC^ 


which could be checked only by the telling of the truth. But even the 
Negro papers appeared to believe this to be only another trial like 
countless others which had preceded it. 

In desperation, I telephoned the distinguished correspondent and 
writer, Vincent Sheean, at his home in Vermont to ask him to go to 
Tennessee to cover the trials. I proposed to him that we would try 
to raise the funds to supply whatever he wrote to whatever news- 
papers were interested in publishing his accounts. Although I knew 
it was superfluous, since Jimmy Sheean (as he prefers to be called) 
and I had been friends for many years, I assured him that there would 
be no censorship nor other attempt on our part to influence his opin- 
ion. Jimmy was feverishly writing against a deadline on a novel at 
the time, but he readily agreed to come to New York to discuss the 
case. He suggested that I get in touch immediately with Mrs. Helen 
Reid and George Cornish of the New York Herald for which 

paper he had frequently written. 

The next day it was decided at a conference in the Herald Tribune 
office that he should go to Lawrenceburg as an official representative 
of the Herald Tribune and of such other newspapers as would sub- 
scribe to his dispatches to write the truth as he saw it, wholly inde- 
pendent of the influence of any of the agencies concerned with the 

Jimmy’s accounts dealt not only with the trial itself but even more 
with the background out of which such a racial clash could develop. 
They were featured prominently on the front pages of the Herald 
Tribune^ the Washington Posty the St. Louis Post-Dispatchy and other 
widely read and respected newspapers throughout the country. They 
constituted what in the opinion of many persons was one of the sound- 
est jobs of reporting which has been done during recent years. Na- 
tional attention was focused on the trials and soon the little town of 
Lawrenceburg found itself the center of attention from all parts of 
the country through the presence of reporters from a large number 
of wire services and individual white and Negro newspapers. 

What had been confidently counted on as a quiet, routine lynching 
suddenly was transformed into an embarrassing cause celebre. The 
disregard of the constitutional rights of the defendants by the judge 
and prosecutor were pitilessly exposed, to their embarrassment. They 

3i8 a Man Called White 

were increasingly angered by the unfavorable publicity and became 
less cautious. But we wondered with apprehension about the reaction 
of the jury. Would they cast their sympathies with the beleaguered 
judge and prosecutor? Or would they see the court officials as they 
were being pictured in the news dispatches, be ashamed of their tac- 
tics and the ill fame they were bringing upon Tennessee? There was 
no possible way for us to learn the answer until the trial was finished. 
Most of the jurors were farmers and small businessmen whose lives 
had brought little contact with the outside world. As far as had been 
humanly possible we had tried to eliminate from the jury through 
peremptory challenges all known members of organizations such as 
the Ku Klux Klan and the United Sons of Dixie. But we feared that 
in such an atmosphere environmental prejudices might conceivably 
cause the best jury obtainable to ignore the evidence and to vote for 

It was a haggard jury which filed into the courtroom to announce 
its verdict. Twenty-three of the twenty-five defendants had been ad- 
judged “not guilty.” Two had been found guilty and were subse- 
quently sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. The basis on which 
these two were selected for verdicts of guilty remains a puzzle to us 
to this day. The evidence against them was the weakest of that against 
any of the twenty-five. They had not even been in Columbia the day 
of the alleged rioting! 

But the verdict of acquittal of twenty-three of the defendants de- 
lighted us as proof that even mountain whites in an isolated village 
like Lawrenceburg would be so shocked by the behavior of the judge 
and prosecutor that they would react violently enough to vote ac- 
quittal for men they believed to be persecuted. Our faith in the in- 
herent decency of persons who had been subjected all their lives to 
organized race prejudice was further strengthened when new trials 
were ordered for Robert Gentry and John McKiven, the two who 
had been convicted at Lawrenceburg. They too were acquitted, this 
time on recommendation of the Attorney General himself, who had 
become convinced that there was no evidence to support the charges 
which had been made against the defendants. 

But Columbia experienced little change of heart. When the retrials 
of Pillow and Kennedy, who had been convicted at Columbia, were 

“Reai cmd BurC^ 


held in December 1946, an effort was made to punish the lawyers, 
and particularly Thurgood Marshall, for daring to appear for the 
defense. Thurgood Marshall told the story of what took place in the 
following letter which he wrote to the Department of Justice: 

The trial of William Pillow and Lloyd Kennedy in Columbia, Ten- 
nessee, was completed a short time after 7 p.m. with a verdict of guilty 
for Kennedy and acquittal for Pillow. The courtroom was almost empty 
at the time. . . . 

We left the courtroom and went down to the area referred to by 
some as “Mink Slide,” went into the drugstore of Mr. Julius Blair and 
purchased soft drinks and crackers. We then got into the car of Mr. Z. 
Alexander Looby and started for Nashville with me driving, at, I would 
say, approximately 7:30. We went over the bridge from Columbia and 
on going up a main road to Nashville a very short distance, which I am 
unable to estimate, I noticed what appeared to be a grey automobile 
standing on the pavement and a state highway patrol car on his right off 
the pavement. I believe there was a filling station at the same place. A car 
was coming in the opposite direction and 1 slowed down for the car to 
pass and blew my horn in an effort to have the car parked in front of 
me move off the highway and when it did not move I pulled around it 
still headed for Nashville. We had gone a very short distance down the 
road when we heard a siren blowing. As I was slowing down to pull off 
the road a car with men in civilian clothes pulled up opposite flashing 
flashlights and with their doors open telling me to pull off the road, 
which I did. This car pulled in front of us and approximately four men 
came back and told us they had a warrant to search the car for whiskey 
and that we should all get out, which we did. When we got out we 
noticed a state highway patrol car parked behind our car and another 
car parked on the right of the car with a spotlight turned on the car, 
which made three cars in all. A man read the search warrant and the 
car was searched. However Mr. Weaver and myself watched carefully 
to make certain that no whiskey was placed in the car by the men 
searching it. Mr. Looby, another of the attorneys, and Mr. Harry Ray- 
mond, a reporter for the Daily Worker^ was also in the car and stood by. 

After the car was searched and no whiskey found some question was 
raised as to whether there was a warrant to search our persons. There 
didn’t appear to be any warrant and we were not searched. Wc then 
asked if we might move on and we were told to go ahead. I got into 
the driver’s seat. There had been some difficulty in the hydromatic 
system of Mr. Looby’s car and while I was trying to get it started, the 
suggestion was made that Looby should drive and I agreed to this. I got 
out of the car and changed places with Looby and as we started off 

320 A Mm Called White 

flashlights were flashed again and there was much yelling to halt and to 
stop, which we did. Then the group gathered around the car again, 
flashing lights in everyone’s face, stating that this man was not driving 
when we drove up. Someone immediately pointed me out and they asked 
me for my driver’s license. They took my license, examined it and 
returned it to me and we were told again we could go ahead to Nash- 

As we started off again the same procedure was followed, lights 
flashed, and there was yelling to stop. The rear door opposite where I 
was seated had opened and someone in the group said: “We have got to 
arrest you for drunken driving.” We all, of course, stated that I was not 
drunk nor had I been drinking but I was told to get out of the car and 
did. I was placed in the rear seat of the car and four men got in the car 
with me, all appeared to be deputy sheriffs or constables. Mr. Looby and 
the others were told that they were free to go to Nashville. Instead of 
going back on the main highway to Columbia, the car I was in turned 
left down the road leading toward the famous Duck River. Mr. Looby 
instead of driving toward Nashville followed the car, whereupon the 
car turned left twice back to the main road and on to Columbia. 

When we reached Columbia someone got out of the car I was in and 
I asked what was next and they told me to go over to the building across 
the street to the Magistrate’s office. I told them that if we went over 
there we were all going over there together since I wasn’t going by 
myself inasmuch as I was under arrest. 

When we went into Mr. Pough’s office, Mr. Weaver came in as my 
attorney and Mr. Pough wanted to know what was going on and he 
was told that I was arrested for drunken driving and he should issue 
a warrant or some other paper. Mr. Pough went over to his desk to fill 
out the papers and Mr. Weaver told him that this was a “frame-up” and 
that he would appreciate it if he, Mr. Pough, would smell my breath. 
Mr. Pough agreed to do so and on examining my breath, said: “This 
man isn’t drunk, he hasn’t even had a drink.” Whereupon all of the 
men left the office except the man who swore out the original warrant 
to search the car and he agreed with Mr. Pough that I wasn’t anywhere 
near drunk. Mr. Pough refused to sign any papers and told me I was 
free to go. When we went out into the street we noticed that the streets 
were deserted in the business section of the town with the exception of 
cars of local police and deputy sheriffs circling around. We returned to 
“Mink Slide” and left Columbia in another automobile entirely different 
from Mr. Looby’s car and made the trip to Nashville without incident. 
Some friends of ours brought Mr. Looby’s car to Nashville the following 

*^Read and Run” 


The Department of Justice made an investigation but nothing came 
of it. We learned from authoritative sources that it had been planned 
to manhandle Thurgood and some of the group had wanted to lynch 
him for his courage and ability. Had Looby and Weaver obeyed the 
order to drive on to Nashville— which they had no intention of doing 
—and failed to follow the car into which Thurgood had been put 
down the dark road toward the Duck River, there is little doubt that 
he would never have been seen again. 

Ironic emphasis was given the episode by the widely heralded in- 
sistence during that period by Secretary James F. Byrnes that the 
rights of minorities in the Balkans should be guaranteed in democratic 

Johnny (Black) Comes 
Marching Home 

Early on the morning of July 26, 1946 , 1 received a long-distance tele- 
phone message which told me that four Negroes, two men and their 
wives, one of the men recently honorably discharged from the United 
States Army, had been lynched the previous day in Walton County, 

I immediately telephoned Atlanta to find great surprise and doubt 
that such a lynching had taken place since no news of it had been 
published there. But because my informant was utterly reliable I asked 
that the most competent and trustworthy investigators, white and 
colored, who could be secured be sent to Walton County as quickly 
as possible. 

Georgia was tom asunder at the time by one of the most bitterly 
contested gubernatorial elections in its dark and bloody history. The 
notorious “Gene” Talmadge was using every possible appeal to big- 
otry to get himself elected governor again. Walton County was one 
of the strongholds of the rural electorate which followed Talmadge 
and his kind with blind devotion. 

Monroe, the county seat of Walton County, was an attractive little 
Georgia community. In proportion to population it had an unusually 
large number of churches. It numbered among its citizens several 
whites who were as appalled by the lynchings and condemnatory of 
the mob as were the Negroes. But few of them dared express their 
opinion. Most of their fellow townsmen and even a larger percentage 
of the farmers who traded in Monroe were rabid believers in the 

Johnny (Black) Comes Marching Home 323 

Ku Klux Klan, Gene Talmadge, lynching, and white superiority. 

The facts discovered by our investigators revealed a sordid back- 
ground of twisted, sadistic sexuality. One of the lynched Negroes had 
become involved in a fight with a white man over the attentions which 
the latter had been paying to the Negro’s wife. The white man went 
to the hospital and the Negro to jail. In a manner which unmistakably 
established official connivance with the mob, the Negro had been re- 
leased from jail and driven down a back road by the white man on 
whose plantation he worked. In the car were also the Negro’s wife 
and another Negro friend and his wife. The car was driven directly 
to the spot where the mob was lying in wait. We turned over to the 
FBI and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation the evidence gathered 
by our investigators, naming seven ringleaders of the lynching party. 
We offered a reward of ten thousand dollars for the arrest and con- 
viction of these men, which, added to the rewards offered by the State 
of Georgia through Governor Ellis Arnall and other groups, brought 
the total sum to more than one hundred thousand dollars. But even 
this sum, which was undreamed-of wealth to the impoverished back- 
woodsmen of Georgia, was insufficient to cause them to risk physical 
violence from the lynchers and their supporters. A reign of terror 
and fear swept over Walton County and effectively shut the mouths 
of both whites and Negroes, One man was beaten almost to death 
for having testified before the Federal Grand Jury. Even nation-wide 
condemnation of the lynchings had no more appreciable effect than 
water on a turtle’s back. 

A fortnight later a less-publicized but even more brutal lynching 
of another Negro veteran occurred at Minden, Louisiana. Honorably 
discharged Ex-Corporal John Jones had been thrown into jail charged 
with “loitering” in the backyard of a white woman resident of Min- 
den. Jones had been kept in jail along with his seventeen-year-old 
cousin Albert Harris, despite the fact that the woman had steadfastly 
and indignantly refused to prefer charges against them. It was later 
revealed that Jones had incurred the enmity of a local white citizen 
for refusing to give the latter a war souvenir which he had brought 
back from overseas. 

One night Jones and Harris had been told by the jailer that they 
were free to leave because the charges against them had been proved 

324 A Man Called White 

groundless, but there was something about the manner in which this 
news was imparted which aroused Jones’ suspicion. He refused to leave 
the jail and insisted on remaining there until daybreak, whereupon 
he was seized by several of the jailers and carried forcibly from the 
building and put into an automobile filled with armed white men. His 
young cousin was forced into another car also filled with hostile 
whites. The two men were driven to a lonely spot. Jones was beaten 
terribly and left for dead. A blowtorch so charred his flesh that the 
undertaker described him to us later as having been jet black in color 
though his skin had been light yellow. The handsome and terrified 
seventeen-year-old Albert Harris had been beaten also unmercifully 
in a futile attempt to force him to “confess” that he and Jones had 
been in the white woman’s yard. Albert had been struck on the fore- 
head with the butt of a forty-five caliber pistol and also left for dead. 
But he did not die. Reviving some time after the mob had gone, he 
heard his cousin moaning in agony and crawled to his side to hear the 
dying man beg for water. Albert, using a shoe for a dipper, had 
brought him water from a stream and had held the war veteran’s head 
in his arms as he died. 

Despite his weakened condition from the terrible beating, the boy 
made his way by back roads to his father’s house. The family knew 
that if it was discovered that Albert was still alive, he would surely 
be killed, to prevent his testifying against the mob (which included 
a number of prominent men of Minden and vicinity and several dep- 
uty sheriffs). Albert and his father climbed into the family automo- 
bile and set out under cover of darkness for a town in Arkansas where 
the boy could be hidden with a relative. 

I telephoned the president of the NAACP branch in that town and 
asked him to put the Harrises on a plane and send them to New York. 
I wanted first to get them out of Ae clutches of the mob which, we 
learned from Daniel Byrd of our New Orleans branch who had gone 
at my request to Minden, was already on its way to the Arkansas 
town to complete its job of killing. 

But hour after hour and day after day passed with no arrival of the 
Harrises. I talked with the Department of Justice and the FBI and 
solicited their aid in locating and protecting them. But even the vast 
and efficient manhunting machinery of the FBI was unequal to the 

Johnny (Black) Comes Marching Home 325 

task. We learned of other relatives of the Harrises in Texas and sought 
information from them, thinking that the Harrises might have learned 
of the mob seeking them in Arkansas. Our search in various parts of 
Texas was equally unsuccessful. We spread our search and eventually 
found them in a small town in northern Michigan after one of the 
most taxing and exciting manhunts in which we had ever engaged. 

But even in Michigan we feared for their safety. The very success 
of the efforts we had made over the years to arouse public opinion 
against lynching and to stir the machinery of the federal government 
to activity against lynchers might have increased their danger, wher- 
ever they were. We knew from our representatives in Louisiana that 
the lynchers were so terrified by the prospect of being arrested and 
convicted in federal courts that they would let nothing be left un- 
done to close Albert’s mouth forever. We notified the Department of 
Justice that we had found the Harrises and I was asked to send them 
to Washington to tell their story. I sent Madison Jones, administra- 
tive assistant in our national office, to Michigan to bring them to New 
York, and Robert Carter of our legal staff and I took them to Wash- 
ington. Never before had we been able to locate an eyewitness who 
could and would give firsthand evidence of what had taken place dur- 
ing a lynching. 

Indictments of several members of the mob were handed down by 
the federal grand jury after Albert Harris, heavily guarded by U. S. 
marshals and by NAACP representatives, had gone from Michigan 
to Louisiana to testify. But a jury acquitted the lynchers despite the 
fact that the Department of Justice had utilized every possible sec- 
tion of the ineffective federal statutes which were then in effect. 

Still another veteran was the target of violence during that terrible 
summer of 1946. After three years in the Army, fifteen months of 
which was spent in the jungles of the South Pacific, Isaac Woodard 
was discharged from the Army at a camp in Georgia. He eagerly 
boarded a bus for his home in North Carolina to see his wife and fam- 
ily after the long absence. On the bus he asked to be allowed to go 
to a restroom and, when he returned, was cursed and threatened by 
the driver because he had been gone longer than suited the driver’s 
wishes. At a town in South Carolina, the name of which Woodard 
did not know, the driver asked the chief of police to arrest the veteran 

326 A Man Called White 

for being “drunk and disorderly,” although Woodard did not drink. 
When Woodard protested that he had been neither drunk nor dis- 
orderly the chief beat him unmercifully with a blackjack and struck 
him in both eyes with the end of his nightstick, blinding him forever. 
The soldier was then thrust into a cell and kept there overnight with- 
out food or medical treatment. 

The next morning his cell door was opened and a policeman or- 
dered him to go with him to court to be tried. He told the officer 
that he was unable to see. The policeman led him to a sink where he 
could wash the blood from his face and then conducted him before 
the judge. The latter promptly found him guilty and fined him fifty 
dollars and costs. The veteran fumbled in his pockets and proffered 
the contents totaling forty dollars in payment of his fine. This was 
peremptorily refused and he was told that the full amount must be 
paid in cash or he would return to jail. Woodard also had a severance- 
pay check of six hundred and ninety-four dollars which he was told 
he could sign to obtain the balance of his fine. Woodard shrewdly 
refused to do this, suspecting from the treatment which had been 
given him and from his own knowledge of the South that, being blind 
he would receive very little of the check. The court officials were 
apparently afraid to endorse the check themselves lest they get into 
difficulties with the federal government. By this time, moreover, the 
condition of Woodard’s eyes was apparently so terrifying that either 
the consciences or the fears of the court were disturbed. A telephone 
call was put in to the U. S. veterans hospital at Spartanburg to ask 
that doctors be sent to examine him and take the Negro veteran to 
the Army hospital. Examination by Army doctors revealed that 
Woodard had been beaten so brutally that the corneas of both of his 
eyes had been injured beyond repair. 

Orson Welles read of the case and with magnificent fury devoted 
most of the time of several weekly broadcasts to denunciation of the 
barbarism and a demand for punitive action, bringing about unsuc- 
cessful efforts on the part of Southern groups to have him removed 
from the air. Veteran, church, labor, and other groups joined us in 
our work of tracking down the culprit and insisting upon action. 

The investigation launched by the FBI and the NAACP was ham- 
pered by the fact that Woodard didn’t know the name of the town 

Johnny (Black) Comes Marching Home 327 

in which he had been beaten, imprisoned, and tried. But eventually 
we located after long search civilian and military fellow passengers 
on the bus who were able to identify the place of the assault and the 
man who had administered the barbarous beating as the chief of po- 
lice. The chief of police was eventually indicted, so great was the 
public indignation against him, but upon being brought to trial he was 
acquitted to the cheers of a crowded courtroom. The U. S. Army de- 
nied our appeal in Woodard’s behalf for a pension on the ground that 
his disability had not been incurred in service despite the fact that an 
Army ruling makes a discharged veteran subject to army discipline 
until midnight of the day of his discharge. We sought damages from 
the bus company but a jury ruled against Woodard. We arranged a 
tour for Woodard, accompanied by Franklin Williams, to publicize 
the case and to raise money for Woodard’s relief. With the money 
obtained in this fashion, and through voluntary contributions total- 
ing ten thousand dollars, we purchased an annuity to aid him. 

There are two poignant memories connected with Isaac Woodard 
which I shall never forget. The first of these was the occasion when 
Woodard was led by his cousin into my office for the first time. Fal- 
tering with the unsureness of the newly blinded, Woodard extended 
his hand into open space in greeting, pathetically attempting to find 
my hand through the sound of my voice. Not yet skilled enough, his 
hand wavered a full two feet away from where my hand was, in the 
manner of one feeling his way in the darkness of a strange place. 

“I saw you, Mr. White, when you visited my outfit in the Pacific,” 
he told me. “I could see then'' 

The other memory is of the day when we invited representatives 
of several organizations and other individuals to meet in the Willkie 
Building to hear Woodard tell the story of what had happened to him. 
Although he could not see the audience, he was terrified by the ordeal 
of making a speech. I had to tell him over and over again that he need 
do no more than relate the facts and to assure him that his auditors 
were friends. It was one of the most moving speeches I have ever 
heard. With not the slightest trace of either bitterness or self-pity, and 
in a voice almost totally devoid of emotion, he told of the long and 
trying months in the Pacific and how eagerly he had looked forward 
to the end of the war when he could rejoin his family and resume 

328 A Mm Called White 

normal civilian life. His voice swelled with modest pride as he told 
of receiving and reading his honorable discharge from the Army. We 
shared with him his impatience and anticipation as he waited for the 
bus which would take him to the North Carolina town where his 
wife awaited him. He made us in simple fashion look forward to the 
trip he and his wife were planning to New York to visit his mother 
and father. And we suffered with him the agony he endured during 
the unmerciful beating, the long night of pain without medical at- 
tention or food in a filthy prison cell, and his uttermost despair when 
he was told that he would be blind the rest of his life. Such was the 
pathos and understatement of Woodard’s story that many in the audi- 
ence, including hardboiled New York newspapermen, hardened to 
tales of misery and brutality, had tears in their eyes as he finished. 

We were certain that the next morning’s papers would give promi- 
nent and lengthy treatment to the story. I wanted this very much, 
because it had become evident that only the pressure of public opinion 
could force any redress for Woodard and stop the terrifying epi- 
demic of violence against Negro veterans which threatened to spread. 
I knew from conversations with many veterans and from the reports 
of other conversations which members of our staff had had with Negro 
soldiers that a dangerous rebellion was rapidly growing among them. 
Many of them were beginning to feel that their service in the Army 
and Navy had intensified prejudice instead of diminishing it, and that 
there was no defense for them except that which they gave themselves. 

But during the very time when Woodard was telling the story of 
what had happened to him in South Carolina, a Negro named Cara- 
way killed the wife of a Long Island banker and shot and criminally 
attacked her daughter. This terrible crime, for which Caraway was 
later executed, was emblazoned in enormous headlines on the front 
page of every New York newspaper and the Woodard meeting was 
totally unmentioned by most papers and only briefly reported by the 


The President Is Helpless 

The Caraway case demonstrated, however, that efforts over the years 
to develop a more enlightened and discriminating public opinion had 
not been in vain. It is possible and even probable that such a crime a 
decade before would have so disheartened or frightened some of the 
church, labor, professional, and educational organizations as to cause 
them to lose interest or to withdraw from the National Emergency 
Committee Against Mob Violence which was formed in August 1946. 
Just the opposite occurred. What Caraway did was recognized as an 
isolated crime which might have been committed by an individual 
of any race or color. When examination by psychiatrists and physi- 
cians ordered by the court revealed that Caraway was of subnormal 
mentality and a drug addict and that he had no memory of criminally 
assaulting the daughter, public indignation against him was not less- 
ened but the terrible crime he had committed was understood in a 
manner which was gratifying. 

We worked out a comprehensive program to build as swiftly as 
possible an active body of public opinion to counteract the activities 
of the hate organizations which were stirring up violence. It was de- 
cided to ask every church leader in the United States to preach special 
sermons and to urge the members of their congregations to refuse to 
join hate groups and instead to oppose them actively. We asked 
chambers of commerce, manufacturers’ associations, employers’ asso- 
ciafions, and trade unions to activate their members against mob vio- 
lence. We asked local units of national organizations to talk person- 
ally with their senators to urge amendment of the Senate rule to 
permit ending of filibusters by a majority instead of a two-thirds 


330 A Man Called White 

vote and to talk with their congressmen regarding amendment of the 
rules of the House of Representatives tu prevent throttling of legis- 
lation by the oligarchic House Rules Committee. We asked them 
also to confer with their governors, attorneys general, mayors, 
sheriffs and chiefs of police to offer their aid in the devising of 
programs to stop violence and prejudice at their inception. We urged 
them as consumers to use their organized strength in persuading 
newspaper and magazine editors and radio and moving picture exec- 
utives to use those media against violence. 

The immediate action which was voted to be taken first was the 
sending of a small but representative delegation to Washington to 
confer with President Truman and Attorney General Tom Clark. 
Either individually or as a member of a delegation, I had been to the 
White House on numerous occasions to discuss this question with 
presidents from Coolidge to Roosevelt. I frankly doubted that our 
efforts on this occasion would be any more rewarding than had been 
those we had made with any of Truman’s predecessors. There was 
considerable delay in gaining an appointment because the President 
was absent from Washington and there was almost as much difficulty 
because of vacation schedules in assembling the kind of representative 
delegation we desired. Our efforts to interest conservative and repre- 
sentative business organizations were utterly fruitless. 

On September 19 six of us went to the White House. Labor was 
represented by James Carey, Secretary of the CIO, and Boris Shishkin 
of the AFL. The church was represented by Dr. Frederick E. Reissig 
of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America and 
education by Dr. Channing H. Tobias, Director of the Phelps-Stokes 
Fund. Leslie Perry, administrative assistant in our Washington Office, 
and I completed the delegation. 

I was asked to be spokesman. The President sat quietly, elbows rest- 
ing on the arms of his chair and his fingers interlocked against his 
stomach as he listened with a grim face to the story of the lynchings 
in Georgia and Louisiana, the flood of viciously anti-Semitic, anti- 
Catholic, anti-labor, and anti-foreign-born literature with which more 
than sixty hate organizations were inundating the country, and of the 
blinding of Isaac Woodard. When I had finished, the President ex- 

The President Is Helpless 331 

claimed in his flat, Midwestern accent, “My God! I had no idea it 
was as terrible as that! We’ve got to do something!” 

Carey, Shishkin, and Tobias related other stories of the rising wave 
of violence and voiced their convictions that unless some deterrent 
was found, even more serious trouble was inevitable. Numerous ideas 
wer6 proffered, analyzed, and discarded as being either impracticable 
or inadequate. The President’s face became even more perplexed and 
pessimistic as we fumbled for an answer to the question which had 
brought us there. 

“Everybody seems to believe that the President by himself can do 
anything he wishes on such matters as this,” he complained. “But the 
President is helpless unless he is backed by public opinion.” 

David K. Niles, Assistant to the President, entered into the discus- 
sion at this point for the first time to suggest the appointment of a 
committee to investigate the entire subject of violation of civil liber- 
ties and to recommend a program of corrective action. My first re- 
action which was shared by other members of the delegation was 
skepticism. President Roosevelt had made a somewhat similar sugges- 
tion several times to me but I had invariably gained the impression 
that he had made such proposals as a means of postponing decisions 
on issues which would bring him into conflict with belligerent anti- 
Negro Southern congressmen and senators. I pointed out to President 
Truman that if an attempt was made to establish such a commission 
by act of Congress, the House Rules Committee, which was at the 
time heavily weighted with Southern and conservative Republican 
members, would bottle it up and defer action indefinitely. Even after 
that delay had been overcome a prolonged and vitriolic filibuster 
would be inevitable in the Senate. The President nodded his head in 
agreement as he said, “I’ll create it by executive order and pay for it 
out of the President’s contingent fund.” 

I believe it was Channing Tobias who raised another objection— that 
such investigations were usually so time-consuming that the creation 
of such a committee would defer action too long a time for safety’s 
sake and provide an excuse to weak-kneed members of Congress for 
non-action. The President, after we had discussed this serious hurdle, 
thought that it could be overcome by enjoining the committee to do 

33 * A Man Called White 

its work as speedily as possible and to have the report completed by 
the date of the opening of the 8oth Congress in January 1947 if that 
could be done. 

Mr. Truman then asked our advice on the composition of the com- 
mittee. It was manifestly desirable to make it as broadly represent- 
ative of every important segment of American thinking and activity 
as possible. Once again I voiced my conviction that however able a 
study was made and however sound its recommendations, the report 
would have little impact on public opinion if the committee were 
made up wholly or predominantly of especially interested persons 
like myself. I particularly urged once again that intelligent represent- 
atives of business and finance should be included in the personnel of 
the committee. The President asked us each to suggest to him indi- 
viduals to be considered for this important job. I told the President 
as I bade him good-by of a story I had heard for whose authenticity 
I could not personally vouch but which, if true, indicated one of the 
industry representatives who ought to be on the committee. 

The story was one of a conversation between Charles E. Wilson, 
President of General Electric Corporation, and a friend who was 
asked by Mr. Wilson what he considered to be the most important 
question facing America. The friend had replied that it was either 
our foreign relations or labor-management relations. Mr. Wilson had 
vigorously disagreed, stating to his companion’s astonishment that 
he was convinced that the race question was the most important of 
all American problems and that some day he hoped to be able to do 
something about it. 

Whether the story be true or not, the record of Mr. Wilson as 
chairman of the President’s Committee on Civil Rights has set a prece- 
dent which conceivably may be far-reaching in view of Mr. Wilson’s 
prominence. The caliber of the other fourteen members of the com- 
mittee was equally distinguished in various fields. They included 
Charles Luckman, the spectacularly successful young president of 
the Lever Brothers soap company; the Most Rev. Francis J. Haas of 
the Catholic Church; the Rt. Rev. Henry Knox Sherrill of the Prot- 
estant Episcopal Church; Mrs. Sadie T. Alexander, energetic Negro 
lawyer of Philadelphia; James B. Carey of the CIO, Boris Shishkin 
of the AFL, Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn, whose eloquent prayer at 

The President Is Helpless 333 

the dedication of the Iwo Jima Cemetery is one of the most superb 
professions of faith of our time; Presidents Frank P. Graham of the 
University of North Carolina and John S. Dickey of Dartmouth Col- 
lege; Dr. Channing H. Tobias; Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr.; Mrs. M. E. 
Tilly of Atlanta, Georgia, one of the outstanding figures of the Meth- 
odist Episcopal Church South; Morris L. Ernst, famed fighter for civil 
liberties; and Francis P. Matthews of Omaha, Nebraska, former head 
of the Knights of Columbus. 

The report which these representatives of business, labor, educa- 
tion, the law, and the public generally presented to the President and 
the American public in the autumn of 1947 under the title To Secure 
These Rights is without doubt the most courageous and specific doc- 
ument of its kind in American history. There are of course some 
omissions and deficiencies. But these are so minute in importance and 
number as to be insignificant when compared to the explicit recom- 
mendations of things to be done by the Congress, administrative 
bureaus of the federal and state governments, by state legislatures 
and by private organizations and individuals. An almost perfect yard- 
stick was thus established by which can be measured the gap be- 
tween what Americans say they believe and what they do. 

No attempt will be made here to summarize the findings or the 
recommendations of the committee. I would prefer instead to recom- 
mend the reading of the report in its entirety. It may be obtained 
from the United States Government Printing Office, and from Simon 
& Schuster, who issued the report in a trade edition. It deals with 
denials of decent housing, jobs, justice, and hope to many millions of 
Americans because of the God they worship, the place of their 
birth, or the color of their skins. Underneath the report is the omin- 
ous rumble of a warning that if these rights are not secured to all 
Americans, there soon will be no rights for any. 

I did not know the role I was playing in the growing conflict be- 
tween the left-of-center and the more extreme left factions of the 
United Automobile Workers-CIO until the performance was over. 
Victor Reuther, the scholarly and almost shy director of the educa- 
tional division of the world’s biggest trade union, invited me to speak 
at a meeting in Cleveland in 1946 of the educational directors of 

334 ^ Called White 

UAW-CIO unions from all parts of the United States. Victor esti- 
mated there would be between five and six hundred of these key 
individuals whose job it was to utilize films, lectures, literature, and 
personal contact to interpret the union’s policies to its vast and tur- 
bulent membership. Instead more than twelve hundred showed up 
at the Hollenden Hotel, now somewhat shabbily genteel but once 
one of the great hotels of America. 

The morning we registered was a cold rainy one. The rococo lobby 
and corridors, once the rendezvous of dignified gourmets, were filled 
with the voices of men accustomed to making themselves heard over 
the roar of factory machinery. There was much slapping of backs 
by ham-sized hands hardened by manual labor but becoming less cal- 
loused now that their owners were devoting themselves to the work 
of education instead of the work of making automobiles. 

But there was an undercurrent of tension and caucusing. Walter 
Reuther’s crowd was growing in strength and determination to oust 
by whatever means were necessary all Communists and fellow- 
travelers from the UAW-CIO. Equally determined not to be ousted, 
but instead to throw out redheaded Walter Reuther were the Com- 
munists and those who, wittingly or otherwise, voted with the left- 
wingers. Throughout the day the business of buttonholing in the long 
dark corridors and the rooms of the Hollenden proceeded feverishly. 
No quadrennial convention to select a presidential candidate by any of 
the political parties was ever more steeped in political maneuvers than 
the Cleveland meeting, although no officers were to be elected there. 
But the lines were already tightly drawn for the annual meeting of 
the UAW-CIO to be held in Atlantic City a few months later when 
either Reuther or the Thomas-Addes-Leonard faction would win 
control of the powerful union. 

Walter Reuther and I were the speakers at the mass meeting to be 
held that evening in the Grand Ballroom. Long before the meeting 
was scheduled to begin every available seat and bit of standing room 
was occupied. Several of the UAW-CIO officials apologized to me 
because I was scheduled to speak first. I did not at the time under- 
stand the reason for such explanations, because it seemed to me per- 
fectly proper and right that the president of the union should be the 
final speaker. I talked briefly, saying that the fate of minorities, 

The President Is Helpless 335 

whether they be racial, religious, or economic, are inextricably inter- 
twined. I cited two or three historical instances of bigots attacking 
the most vulnerable minority and then, when that group had been 
crushed, extending their denial of elemental rights to the next most 
defenseless group and from that one to the next one until liberty for 
all had been circumscribed or destroyed. I talked frankly and spe- 
cifically about the job which the UAW-CIO had started but was a 
long way from completing— eliminating prejudice of their Southern 
white and some of their Northern white members against Negroes 
and suspicion of trade unionism and of the attitude of their white fel- 
low workers among Negroes. 

There was little which was new and certainly nothing brilliant in 
my speech. But fortunately my audience seemed convinced that it 
was an honest speech and they were amazingly generous in their ap- 
plause as I sat down. Some of my listeners had winced when I re- 
minded them sharply that internal political quarreling or factional 
fights to satisfy personal ambitions or grudges could mean destruction 
of the union. Walter Reuther was given an ovation when he was 
introduced although I noticed some in the audience who sat glumly 
silent as they refrained from applauding. It was Don Montgomery, 
the quiet and erudite economist of the UAW-CIO, who looks more 
like a college professor or writer than a labor leader for the very 
good reason that he was a teacher, who told me after the meeting 
was over what had happened. Some of Reuther’s enemies had planned 
to stage a demonstration against him when he rose to speak. But after 
the audience had reacted so spontaneously and cordially to my re- 
marks, Don and Victor Reuther told me, the anti-Reutherites decided 
to call off the demonstration. 

Later Victor Reuther wrote me a letter which I treasure, in which 
he told me that my speech had helped to turn the tide against the at- 
tempts of Communists to capture the meeting. 


Children Grow Up 

Every parent goes through a mental and emotional metamorphosis 
when suddenly his children burst through the chrysalis of childhood 
and emerge as adults, and, to a certain extent, strangers. For Gladys 
and me the process was complicated, as is everything in the life of 
a Negro, by the circumstance of race. 

During my career with the NAACP, I had filled each year an in- 
creasing number of lecture engagements at American colleges and 
universities. Sometimes these contacts with students had caused my 
incurable optimism regarding the inherent decencies of human beings 
to develop to such an extent that not infrequently I would be brought 
up sharply by encounters with the bigotry of older persons. But the 
reverse was fortunately also true, when I would leave the dismaying 
atmosphere of a filibuster in Washington or the scene of a riot or 
lynching to speak on a week-end to eager and courageous students. 
My dreams of a more just and decent world were kept alive frequently 
only by talking with young people who were sloughing off the 
prejudices of their parents and environment. 

For a variety of reasons Smith College in Northampton, Massachu- 
setts, was the institution with which I had most frequent contact. The 
beloved William Allan Neilson, president of Smith, devoted a great 
portion of his extracurricular activity to service as a member of the 
board of directors of the NAACP. Before the decline of his health 
and eventual retirement from Smith, Dr. Neilson came down to New 
York from Northampton the second Monday of every month to at- 
tend and actively participate in NAACP board meetings. He and I 
frequently dined together and occasionally went to a movie between 


Children Grow Up 337 

board meetings and the night train to Northampton. On those occa- 
sions and those of my visits to Smith, I learned to love him as a friend 
and to admire him as one of the greatest educators I have ever been 
privileged to know. I used to accuse him of using me as a sounding- 
board and avenue of release from campus academic problems since 
I could make no claim to scholarly erudition. 

Thanks to Dr. Neilson and others on the Smith faculty, the college 
maintained leadership among American educational institutions in ig- 
noring artificial lines of demarcation based on race, social position, 
wealth, or place of birth. Few colleges I have known have been more 
free from cant and hypocrisy or more ready to examine new ideas 
than Smith. 

It was, therefore, quite natural and inevitable that Gladys and I 
wanted Jane to receive her college education there. 

Jane’s four years at Smith did more than provide her with a college 
degree. They gave us ringside seats from which we, as parents, could 
witness the growth of intelligence and thinking on social questions 
of students of Jane’s generation. Jane herself was the central figure, 
unwittingly, in one of the most significant and dramatic of these 

On matriculating as a freshman, she was assigned to live in Morris 
House. She had hardly arrived before a sizable commotion was cre- 
ated by a white student from Florida, assigned to the same house, 
who objected strenuously to Jane’s presence and delivered an ulti- 
matum that unless Jane was removed she herself would leave Smith 

It was probably the worst jolt the girl ever received when she was 
firmly informed that if she could not comply with the principles and 
practices of the college her place would be filled immediately by an- 
other girl. The young woman decided to remain in college. 

Three years later, during the annual campaign to elect officers of 
the class which would be seniors the following year, the most inde- 
fatigable campaigner on the campus was the young Floridian. She was 
not working in her own behalf— but to elect Jane as president of 
the house of representatives. Jane was elected by an overwhelming 

After Jane’s graduation from Smith College she revealed that she 

338 A Man Called White 

wanted above everything to devote her life to the theater. But for 
her the disadvantage of skin color was greater even than that faced 
by dark-skinned Negroes. If her skin had been darker, she could have 
secured (assuming that her ability were great enough) so-called Negro 
roles in the increasing number of Broadway plays in which there were 
Negro characters. But her delicate ivory color and regular features 
caused her to appear un-Negro behind the footlights even with the 
use of dark makeup. And the stage was not yet ready to permit a 
Negro actor or actress to portray any except Negro roles. 

"W^en she tried out for the part of a young woman in a play about 
India, the author and producer were enthusiastic about her perform- 
ance, declaring that her appearance, diction, and acting ability ideally 
suited her for the role. But from a higher level came the indignant 
objection that it was “unthinkable” to cast a Negro girl in an Indian 
part (in spite of the fact that Jane’s color was lighter than that of 
most Indian girls). Another girl was given the part. 

Jane’s debut in the theater was made in the dramatization of Lillian 
Smith’s novel of the south. Strange Fruit. 

On the blizzardy night of the New York opening we had a party 
for Jane which lasted until nearly daybreak. Helen Hayes and Charlie 
MacArthur, Canada Lee, Jean Muir, Fredric March, Edna Thomas, 
Marc Connelly, Poppy Cannon, Kenneth Spencer, Edwin Embree 
of the Rosenwald Fund, Richmond Barthe the sculptor, Fania Mari- 
noff, Carl Van Vechten, John Bright, J. J. Singh, Marcella Powers, 
and many others filled our small Harlem apartment to launch Jane 
and the other members of the cast on the all too brief New York run 
of the play. 

Jane and Mel Ferrer, who played the leading male role, received 
excellent notices from the critics in the white press. Some of the Negro 
newspapers, using the occasion as a political grindstone, were less kind. 
I had opposed the making of a sordid moving picture called St. Lotus 
Woman, and defended Lena Home’s refusal to play in it. It had been 
planned to produce the story first as a play and then as a picture. 
Although written by two able Negro writers, Countee Cullen and 
Ama Bontemps, who were my friends, it had pictured Negroes as 
pimps, prostitutes, and gamblers with no redeeming characteristics. 
Even one role supposed to portray a decent person— that of a pious 

Children Grow Up 339 

churchgoing woman— represented her as having had several children, 
each by a different father without benefit of clergy. I had been 
shocked on reading the script to find every cliche and stereotype of 
the minstrel Negro included in it. My disapproval had angered a 
number of people, particularly some of the Negro actors and actresses 
in Hollywood who feared the loss of employment through the abo- 
lition of movie stereotypes of Negroes as perennial and incurable buf- 
foons or feeble-minded menials. 

While I would have written Strange Fruit quite differently had I 
been fortunate and able enough to write so successful a best-seller, its 
story and motivation were vastly different from that of St. Louis 
Woman. Lillian Smith had written her tragic story of racial hate in 
Georgia as honestly as any author had ever put word to paper. Con- 
siderable as were its faults it had an integrity and realism which were 
totally absent from St. Louis Woman. My enemies and critics, happy 
to find what they believed to be inconsistency between my attack on 
St. Louis Woman and my support of Strange Fruity charged that Jane 
had been given the role only to silence criticism from me. It was a 
foul business but I was very proud of the manner in which Jane with- 
stood the attack, although Gladys and I could see that she was deeply 

My son Walter’s emergence from childhood was similarly marked 
by problems created by racial prejudice. As a child of ten he had an- 
nounced, with a singular adultness of mind, his belief that war was 
“immoral” and futile. He gave no evidence of any change in this atti- 
tude until he was sixteen, when, to the consternation of Gladys and 
me, he announced one morning at breakfast that he wanted to join 
the paratroopers, because, though he had not changed his ideas about 
war, he thought that Hitler and Hirohito and Mussolini stood for 
everything against which I had been fighting all my life, and he wanted 
to do what he could on the right side. 

The age of adolescence in children is a difficult time for parents. 
They have not yet quite sloughed off their habit of thinking of their 
offspring as infants, and a proposal such as Walter’s stimulates pic- 
tures in their minds which are shockingly incongruous. 

Suddenly it seemed as though it had been only yesterday that he 

340 A Man Called White 

had come home from the maternity hospital in his mother’s arms. I 
loathed to a degree beyond expression in words the ruthlessncss and 
unscrupulousness in mental attitude with which I knew paratroopers 
were necessarily indoctrinated. I hated the thought of a sensitive, 
healthy, and idealistic boy being taught to gouge eyes, hit below the 
belt or anywhere else opportunity offered, as the men dropped be- 
hind enemy lines were taught to do. Because he loved photography, 
I suggested both seriously and banteringly, that if he was seeking 
sudden death he should join the signal corps and ask for advanced 
combat duty. At least, I reminded him, he would be learning a use- 
ful skill instead of that of gutter fighting. But when I saw that he 
was not to be discouraged, I told him that I would sign whatever 
papers would make it possible for him to enlist at his age. 

But Gladys and I needn’t have worried about it, had we thought 
the thing through. When he applied for acceptance, he was informed 
that “the United States Army is not enlisting Negroes as paratroopers.” 

It was two years later, after he had entered Swarthmore College, 
that he received his “greetings from the President.” The day of Japan’s 
surrender was not one of jubilation for him because on that very day 
he was ordered to take his physical examination for the Army. “Were 
the war still going on I’d not object. Dad,” he told me, “but now that 
peace has come I don’t want to interrupt my college career just as it 

There was nothing I could do. Were I to ask any favor for my own 
son in the form of a deferment, which I could freely ask for any other 
man’s son if the facts justified asking, inevitable criticism would de- 
scend on the Association and hurt its good name. Already some crit- 
ical remarks had come to me because Walter was unusually tall and 
large for his age. The statement had been made, interestingly enough 
by Negroes, that Walter was being kept out of the Army through 
my “influence” while the sons of less publicized parents had had to 

Induction came several months after V-J Day in the middle of Wal- 
ter’s second semester at Swarthmore. He was ordered to Camp Dix in 
New Jersey, where he remained for a long time during the period of 
uncertainty after the war when neither the War Department or Con- 
gress could make up their minds on what kind of a national defense 

Children Grov) Up 341 

America would need. Then one night he telephoned us that he was 
scheduled to leave early the next morning for Camp Robinson in 

I became almost physically ill. That very morning I had received 
a carefully documented account of the killing in cold blood of two 
Negro soldiers at that camp because, having been born north of Mason 
and Dixon’s line, they had unwittingly violated one of the South’s 
unwritten laws on the way in which Negroes should defer to whites. 
It was too late to do anything even if there had been anything which 
could be done without harming the Association. I dared not tell 
Gladys of my dismay although I knew she sensed it. Cold terror filled 
me as I thought of what might happen when Walter, accustomed 
only to a somewhat more civilized section of the country where he 
could come and go almost as he pleased, unwittingly failed to say a 
properly deferential “sir” to a white Southerner. Even more paralyz- 
ing fear gripped me all through the night as I visualized what might 
result when my son gave his name as “Walter White.” I tried desper- 
ately but unsuccessfully to forget the rewards which had been offered 
in Arkansas and other Southern states to anyone who would “get 
Walter White” following my investigations of race riots and lynch- 
ings which several times had disclosed the names of the killers. I wished 
heartily for Walter’s sake at that moment that there had not been so 
much publicity of that work which made my name so loathed by the 
Ku Klux Klan and its like-minded organizations. I got little sleep that 

We never found out what happened that next morning at Camp 
Dix. Walter was lined up with the other miserable and unhappy draft- 
ees on the railroad station platform awaiting his turn to step aboard 
the Arkansas-bound train. Suddenly a sergeant’s voice barked a com- 
mand to eight or ten men, including Walter, to step out of line and 
return to camp. A few days later he was sent to Camp Lee in Vir- 
ginia. I was delighted because Lee had a reputation of being the best- 
run training camp with the least racial friction of any in the South. Its 
commanding officer, General George Horkan, and two majors. Jack 
Tierney from Goshen, N. Y., and Andy Gray from Boston, were my 

Gladys and I felt confident that between General Horkan and 

34i A Man Called White 

Majors Gray and Tierney Walter would not exactly be mistreated at 
Camp Lee. Our peace of mind, however, did not last long, through no 
fault of theirs. Although his induction and other Army records listed 
Walter as “colored” he found on his arrival at Camp Lee that he had 
been assigned to a “white” barracks. He telephoned us in great per- 
turbation. “What will be the effect,” he demanded, “on the NAACP 
of my being assigned to a ‘white’ outfit? Won’t colored people think 
I’m passing and won’t it hurt your work?” 

I was deeply touched that he did not think of himself but only of 
what harm might come to my work. I tried to reassure him by remind- 
ing him that the NAACP had vigorously fought racial segregation 
in the Army and Navy and perhaps, now that the war was over, the 
armed services were beginning to practice some of the democracy 
they allegedly had fought for. But my half- jesting, half-serious quip 
gave him no consolation. “Your son is the last person they should 
choose for the experiment,” he told me. I promised to telephone 
General Horkan and get the matter straightened out if I could, and 
he seemed to feel somewhat relieved. 

It had been a mistake, I learned. Walter is tall, ivory-skinned of 
color, not bad-looking according to our friends, and speaks with an 
accent not usually associated with Negroes. So the Army officer who 
made the assignment apparently had not bothered to look at the desig- 
nation of race and had assumed that Walter was white instead of 
Negro. George Horkan arranged a transfer to a Negro unit. 

Thus Walter was introduced to a way of life which was a painful 
and trying transition from the quiet culture of Swarthmore. On the 
day before his transfer there had been two knifings and other brawls 
in the colored unit. Most of the men had come from the levee towns 
and rural areas of the deep South where life had been tough and ad- 
vantages few. Walter had been rudely awakened to the realization 
that a lot of his fellow Americans were not like those at Fieldston 
(his preparatory school) and Swarthmore by his contacts with men 
in the barracks at Dix and Lee. But now, perhapybecause most of the 
Negroes he had knovm in our home had been men and women of 
great gentility like James Weldon Johnson and William Hastie and 
Marian Anderson, the ones he was living with in the goldfish-bowl 
life of Army barracks were a distinct novelty to him, to put it mildly. 

Children Grow Up 343 

“I can’t even understand them,” he told me plaintively over the 

But he made his adjustment gallantly and we were glad when later 
he brought to our house some of the men he had learned to know 
and respect. 


No Road Back to Atlanta 

The years since World War Two have passed swiftly, bringing their 
mixture of the old discouragements and the new hopes. 

The end of the war brought many signs that the patience of the 
Negro was wearing thin. There were many ways in which this was 
visible— some of them gratifying, others of a nature which compli- 
cated the problems we were attempting to solve. Despite the eco- 
nomic hardships suffered by Negroes through closing down of many 
war industries in which they had found employment, and rising com- 
modity prices, the NAACP continued to grow in membership and 
influence. Not only Negroes, but also a growing number of white 
Americans, both Southern and Northern, became increasingly active 
in the Association’s work. Frequently I was embarrassed by the neces- 
sity of rejecting the applications of many young white men and 
women who were eager to work to eliminate race prejudice. 

A much less commendable and often quite embarrassing evidence 
of the Negro’s resentment became more frequent— hypersensitive bel- 
ligerence and surliness of Negroes toward whites. On numerous oc- 
casions I found myself the victim of such ill-will until I escaped from 
the situation or was forced to let it be known that I was not white. 
This situation could have been even more embarrassing and dangerous 
had it not been for the persistent campaign of Negro newspapers like 
the 'Pittsburgh Courier and Chicago Defender and of church, civic, 
and other groups. 

Another proof of disillusionment which caused us difficulty was 
the attempt of Communists to infiltrate a few branches and youth 
councils of the NAACP after the shooting war was over. During the 


No Road Back to Atlanta 345 

days of the Scottsboro case, the strategy of the Communists had been 
to discredit the NAACP and to destroy the faith of its members in the 
organization. The Negro issue had been dropped with conspicuous 
abruptness during the days of the Hitler-Stalin pact and it had been 
played down by the Communists during the war. Some of the abler 
and more honest Negro Communists had made no attempt to con- 
ceal their conviction that the success of the defense of Russia should 
take precedence over the fight for Negro rights in the United States. 
During that period of Russian collaboration and of Communist Party 
alliance in the United States with anyone who directly or indirectly 
contributed to Russian military victory, the NAACP encountered 
little criticism or conflict with American Communists. But as soon as 
the war had ended in victory and the unity created by military neces- 
sity had begun to deteriorate, we began to see Communists try to gain 
control or at least to influence the policies of some of our local units. 

Their method was comparatively simple. Members of the Commu- 
nist Party joined some of the local branches of the Association and 
worked indefatigably on projects against discrimination. Nothing 
was said about membership in the Communist Party nor was there 
any attempt to spread obviously Communist doctrine. In one of our 
California branches two Communists became members of the legal 
redress and legislative committee. They did an excellent job. 

Soon they proposed that it be made into two committees since the 
amount of work was too great for one. Without consultation with 
the national office this was done. On the newly created “political 
and legislative committee” were appointed the two Communists, two 
sincere but politically inexperienced members of the branch, and a 
fifth person who, though not a Communist, liked publicity and was 
delighted with the energetic fashion in which the two Communists 

On September 15, 1946, at a meeting which was attended by 
approximately 300 of the 1600 members of the branch, the “politi- 
cal and legislative committee” presented a report recommending 
that the branch endorse a slate of candidates in the bitterly contested 
California elections of that year. The proposed slate was headed by 
the name of the Communist candidate for governor and included 
both Democrats and RepublicanSs 

34^ A Man Called White 

My first knowledge of the action of the branch came in a tele- 
gram from a member of the branch asking if branches of the 
NAACP had authority to endorse political parties or candidates for 
political office. I promptly informed the inquirer that such endorse- 
ment was unequivocally prohibited both by the national board of 
directors and by action of the Annual Convention. At the same time 
I telegraphed the president and secretary of our San Francisco 
branch “immediately to withdraw its endorsement of political can- 
didates which is in direct violation of Association policy. . . . Branch 
is further instructed to notify National Office of such repudiation 
and to issue statement to newspapers that it has repudiated endorse- 
ment of political candidates.” When this telegram was not answered 
immediately the president of the branch was informed that unless 
such retraction was issued by the branch within twenty-four hours, 
the national office would repudiate the endorsement and at the same 
time suspend the charter of the branch. This brought action. A 
special call meeting of the board of the branch rescinded its previ- 
ous action and the news was given to the press. 

Equally swift action was taken when efforts were made in ten 
or twelve of the other sixteen hundred branches, youth councils, 
and college chapters of the Association. We were determined to 
permit no political organization, whether Communist, Republican, 
Democratic, or of any other political persuasion, to “capture” local 
units or to utilize the Association’s machinery for selfish and parti- 
san political purposes. 

Counterattack^ the Weekly Newsletter of Facts on Communism^ 
edited by former agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 
spotlighted the situation in its November 28, 1947, issue. Its leading 
item told of Communist plans to capture the National Association 
for the Advancement of Colored People, “the great mass organiza- 
tion of Negroes” which “is respected and supported by Negroes 
everywhere.” Cotmterattack reported that its investigators had 
learned that the Communist National Board had “decided last sum- 
mer that the time had come to move on from infiltration of the 
NAACP to actual capture of it,” had liquidated the National Negro 
Congress as part of the plan, and added that “the party has ordered 
them (its members) to behave discreetly a while ... to refrain 

No Road Back to Atlanta 347 

from pushing the party line conspicuously . . . and thus to quiet the 
suspicions of Walter White, Secretary and main leader of the 
NAACP, and prevent him from acting against them before they 
get too strong for him to stop them.” 

Newspaper reporters who thought they smelled an exciting story 
were somewhat baffled when I refused to become alarmed. I in- 
formed them that I saw no reason to worry about former leaders 
of the National Negro Congress “capturing” the Association when 
they had so conspicuously failed to attract any mass membership for 
their own organization. I also told reporters that the issue would be 
decided, not by the NAACP or any other organization, but by 
the capacity of the capitalist system to prove its right to continue 
to exist. If racial bigotry continued to dominate the domestic and 
international policy of the United States and of the white capitalist 
world, I could see no possible hope of survival of that system. But 
if democracy and a system of free enterprise were able to abolish 
inequalities, guarantee security and a decent way of life to every 
man on the basis of his ability, we would have nothing to worry 
about from communism. I said this, incidentally, to Frederick Wolt- 
man. New York World-Telegram reporter who won the Pulitzer 
Prize for his expose of communism in the United States, and as a 
result I was bitterly denounced in the Daily Worker by Benjamin 
J. Davis, New York City councilman whom I have known since he 
was a boy in Atlanta. 

On April 9, 1947, ^ called on President Truman at the White 
House to invite him to speak at the Lincoln Memorial in Washing- 
ton on June 29, 1947, at the closing session of the Thirty-first 
Annual Conference of the NAACP. Although I knew it was un- 
necessary for me to do so, I reminded the President of how acts of 
discrimination against minorities were being used abroad to dis- 
credit the United States and convince the people of the world that 
Americans were incurably addicted to bigotry. A forthright and 
unequivocal statement by the President was necessary, I urged, to 
let the people of the world know that while Americans frequently 
failed to live up to their declarations of democracy, we were con- 

34® A Man Called White 

stantly at work to narrow the margin between our protestations of 
freedom and our practice of them. 

“Send me a memorandum,” he said, “of the points you think I 
ought to emphasize in my speech.” 

We both laughed as I told him that if he included even one half 
of the things I thought he ought to say, the Southern Democrats 
would probably want to run him out of the country. 

We invited also as speakers Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt and Senator 
Wayne Morse of Oregon, and it was decided by the committee on 
arrangements that I should introduce the President and utilize the 
occasion to state simply and unequivocally the position of the 
Negro. All four major networks— CBS, NBC, ABC, and Mutual— 
and most of the independent radio stations generously agreed to 
broadcast the President’s and my speeches. The State Department 
arranged to send the program by short wave to all parts of the 
world. A number of local networks and independent stations in 
addition agreed to rebroadcast the speeches one or more times in 
addition to carrying the program directly from Washington as it 
was in progress. 

Anticipating the explosive report of the Committee on Civil 
Rights which was destined to bring down upon his head vilification 
and denunciation from the South as great as that heaped upon Abra- 
ham Lincoln, President Truman called for federal, state, and individ- 
ual action against lynching, disfranchisement, the poll tax, educational 
and employment inequality, and the whole caste system based upon 
race or color. The applause when he finished was hearty but not over- 
whelming. I thought again of Lincoln— of the cool response which 
had been accorded the Gettysburg Address. I did not believe that 
Truman’s speech possessed the literary quality of Lincoln’s speech 
but in some respects it had been a more courageous one in its 
specific condemnation of evils based upon race prejudice which had 
too long disgraced America, and its call for immediate action against 

As he sat down, the President turned modestly to ask how I liked 
his speech. When I told him how excellent I believed it to be, he 
assured me, “I said what I did because I mean every word of it— 
and I am going to prove that I do mean it.” 

No Road Back to Atlanta 349 

If he had any premonition of the savage assaults which were 
destined to be made upon him by Southern governors, senators, and 
congressmen when he asked the Congress to act upon the issues he 
had discussed in his speech, or if he had any fear of the con- 
sequences, he showed no signs of it. 

Radio authorities estimated that several hundred million listeners 
in all parts of the globe heard the speeches. It was by far the largest 
single audience in history to hear the story of the fight for freedom 
for the Negro in the United States. One of the members of our 
board of directors. Bishop W. J. Walls of Chicago, wrote me from 
Vienna that the program had been very widely publicized and dis- 
cussed there. And one of the most touching of all responses was a 
letter from the remote Pacific Island of Tinian which I had visited 
during the war. The writer, Lewis Harris, Jr., said that he and a 
number of other American soldiers had listened to the broadcast in 
a miserably hot tent and had been so stirred by it that they had 
immediately afterward raised among themselves a contribution of 
$59.25 to help carry on the work of the NAACP. 

And then there was the Freedom Train, 

By invitation I attended a conference at the White House shortly 
before our Washington meeting. The meeting had been called by 
the American Heritage Foundation, which had been organized to 
promote the Freedom Train on which original documents pertain- 
ing to the American struggle for freedom, such as the Declaration 
of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Emancipation Procla- 
mation, were to be exhibited throughout the United States. 

I agreed with some cynics that it was a ballyhoo stunt— but I was 
equally convinced that it was good ballyhoo which would reawaken 
in the minds of Americans the passionate devotion (which at times 
appeared almost to have been totally lost) to the belief that all men 
are equal and should be given equal opportunity. 

Names on the roll of conference delegates read like a super fVho^s 
Who of the business, professional, and civic leaders of the United 
States. Winthrop W. Aldrich, Louis Novins, Attorney General Tom 
Clark, and Thomas D’A. Brophy were the speakers. The theme of 
the meeting was voiced by Mr, Brophy in the slogan. “We must 

J 50 A Man Called White 

work at democracy to make democracy work.” Later we were 
guests of Mr. Aldrich at luncheon at the Statler Hotel at which a 
variety of eloquent speeches were made by Eric Johnston, William 
Green, and Mrs. Robert Patterson, wife of the Secretary of War. 
After the formal address individual after individual rose to speak in 
support of the Freedom Train. Many of the statements were brief 
and to the point. Several others of the speakers, however, talked 
glibly and at length of a freedom which their own organizations 
had notoriously denied to other Americans. 

I found myself increasingly annoyed by some of the statements 
in praise of freedom when I knew that the acts of the speakers belied 
their words. I kept remembering a headline in the morning’s news- 
papers which to me at least marked a tragic gap between the phrases 
which were being spoken and what was really going on in the 
United States. I had not intended to speak but suddenly I found 
myself standing, attempting to gain recognition from Mr. Aldrich. 
I was determined, even at the risk of being guilty of spoiling an 
otherwise pleasant occasion, to speak the plain truth. At last Mr. 
Aldrich nodded in my direction. Fearing that some of those present 
might not know my race, I announced my name and said that I was 
secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of 
Colored People, emphatically stressing the word “colored.” I sug- 
gested as an objective “a program to teach Americans the real meam 
ing of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution” and said that the first 
place at which the Freedom Train should stop was Greenville, S. C., 
in which on the night before “twelve good men and true . . . had 
freed twenty-eight self-confessed lynchers.” 

Startled faces turned to stare at the individual who had dared to 
tie in a grim reality of this embarrassing nature with the talk about 
freedom. I did not relish the experience but I could never have felt 
right afterward had I not spoken. There was a stunned silence for 
perhaps fifteen seconds and then applause which filled the room. 
Irving Berlin put his arms about my shoulders as he congratulated 
me, while some of the newspapermen were generous enough to tell 
me they were delighted that someone “had the guts to get up and 
tell the truth.” 

Shortly afterward Charles E. Wilson, president of General Elec- 

No Road Back to Atlanta 351 

trie Corporation and chairman of the President’s Committee on 
Civil Rights, introduced a resolution in a meeting of the board of 
directors of the American Heritage Foundation that the Freedom 
Train be withdrawn from any city which attempted to segregate 
those who wished to visit the train. It was passed unanimously. 

I was startled when shortly thereafter the Communist Party or- 
dered its members to discredit whenever possible the Freedom 
Train as a “plot to fool the people.” With some justification and 
considerable accuracy they charged that some of the most promi- 
nent sponsors of the project had been guilty of anti-labor and anti- 
minority statements and practices. 

But more direct were the assaults from the right on the Freedom 
Train. Memphis, Tennessee, that bastion of feudalism ruled by the 
notorious Boss Crump, bluntly refused to abandon racial segrega- 
tion for the duration of the scheduled appearance of the Free- 
dom Train in that city. Promptly the American Heritage Founda- 
tion canceled the showing there. For one of the very first times in 
history the rest of the country had called the bluff of the reaction- 
ary South. Mortified by the unfavorable publicity caused by the 
cancellation, many of the citizens of Memphis dared the wrath of 
Crump by protesting vigorously and loudly. 

When the Freedom Train visited Nashville shortly afterward, 
space was purchased by citizens of Nashville in the Memphis news- 
papers inviting Memphians to come to Nashville where they could 
see the original Bill of Rights which Crump had not let them see in 
Memphis. Other Southern cities, including several small ones in 
Mississippi, besieged the American Heritage Foundation to send the 
train to those cities on the days which had been allotted to Memphis 
and to Jackson, Mississippi, which also refused to abandon segrega- 
tion and also suffered cancellation as a consequence. 

Birmingham, Alabama, warned by the fate which had befallen 
Memphis and Jackson, came up with the bright idea of justifying 
segregated lines because of state laws requiring separate waiting 
rooms for whites and Negroes on the Birmingham railroad station. 
The two lines were scheduled to merge a few yards from the train 
with alternating groups of twenty persons from each racial line 
admitted to the train. 

35* A Man Called White 

Inquiry speedily revealed that since the train was to be exhibited 
in the railroad yards and not in the railroad station, the excuse of 
separate waiting rooms required by law was obviously fallacious. 

The issue was finally settled when the American Heritage Founda- 
tion discovered that deliberately false statements had been made 
about the arrangements by some of the Birmingham city officials. 
The showing in Birmingham of the Freedom Train was promptly 
canceled. Other Alabama cities like Montgomery and Anniston re- 
ceived the train without segregation. Their local newspapers pointed 
out that Negro and white citizens stood in the same lines to pay 
taxes, make bank deposits, and purchase stamps in local post offices, 
and that it would be ridiculous under these circumstances to require 
segregation on the Freedom Train. 

Another victory, although a modest one, was scored for democ- 
racy when other Southern cities which had in one form or another 
insisted on segregation, withdrew their demands after the Birming- 
ham exhibition of the Freedom Train was canceled. It was increas- 
ingly apparent that the stigma of bigotry attached to the South by 
politicians, opportunists, and bigots was beginning to lose its talon- 
like effectiveness. 

Perhaps if enough Northerners and Southerners who are ashamed 
of being constantly pictured as morons and bigots achieve such 
understanding, decent Southerners can be elevated into a position 
where they instead of the Talmadges and Rankins shall be the real 
spokesmen of the South— both white and Negro. 

The increasing importance to world peace of the problem of 
racial minorities, and the inextricability of all race hatreds, one from 
another, were emphasized by events centering around the contro- 
versy in the United Nations over the partition of Palestine, when 
once more the United States needed the help of black Haiti. For 
the first time on a major issue in the United Nations, the United 
States and Soviet Russia were lined up on one side against Great 
Britain and the Arab states on the other. Haiti had announced diat 
she would vote against partition as had also the black Republic of 
Liberia. I was bombarded by pro-partition organizations and indi- 
viduals in the United States and one highly placed American ofiicial 

No Road Back to Atlanta 353 

importuned me to do what I could to persuade Haiti to change her 

In my own opinion both the wisdom and the practicability of 
partition were doubtful. But no other solution had been devised or 
discussed. I did not like the self-segregation of Zionism, nor did I 
approve of the attitude of many Jews who had made it a sacred cult. 
But I reluctantly supported partition only because Palestine seemed 
the only haven anywhere in the world for nearly one million Jews 
of Europe. 

My efforts to persuade the Haitian government to reconsider its 
decision to vote against partition were not made any easier by the 
attitude of some of the advocates of partition. One exceedingly able 
and experienced woman who telephoned my office and home inces- 
santly during the UN debate imperiously demanded of me one day, 
“Don’t the Haitians know that the best friends they have on earth 
are Jews?” Annoyed at her manner, I brusquely informed her that 
both the Haitians and I would like to have evidence of her state- 
ment. Her reply was so vague and evasive that I suggested that she 
would be more successful in her efforts to win support for partition 
if she refrained from overstatements of that character. 

For a time I hoped that the passionate partisans of partition were 
making such statements only to me because I knew them well 
enough for them to feel free to talk frankly. But I soon learned 
that this was not so and that as a result the UN representatives from 
Haiti, Liberia, and the Philippines and other small countries were 
becoming increasingly annoyed at the imperious way in which 
attempts were made to dictate to them the way they should vote. 
It was quite clear that some of the most active workers for Palestine, 
although by no means all of them, labored under the delusion that 
the Haitians and Liberians should accept without question the man- 
dates of the white pro-partition advocates. In one or two instances 
the racial arrogance toward the small countries because they were 
black and poor was little different from that shown by the most 
intransigent Southern politicians toward Negroes. 

I had been serving for some months on the Citizens Committee 
on Displaced Persons under the chairmanship of Earl G. Harrison, 
the distinguished Dean of the law school of the University of Penn- 

354 A Man Called White 

^Ivania. I had written a number of syndicated columns to do what 
I could toward creation of public opinion in favor of the Stratton 
Bill, the purpose of which was to bring about the admission of dis- 
placed Europeans to the United States. The reaction to some of these 
columns had been startling, to put it mildly, revealing widespread 
and intense anti-Semitism. A number of letters, usually anonymous 
and couched in obscene language, denied the accuracy of my state- 
ments that eighty per cent of the one hundred thousand displaced 
persons which the Stratton Bill proposed should be admitted to the 
United States per year for four years were non-Jews. These figures 
had been vouched for by all responsible governmental and private 

It was nauseating to see how effectively the vicious propaganda of 
both the Adolf Hider of Nazi Germany and the native American 
Hiders had poisoned with hate the minds of so many Americans. 
I remember ruefully the experience during the war when I had 
been invited to luncheon by a well-known New York banker. We 
ate in one of New York’s most famous university clubs. My host 
had telephoned me after hearing me speak at a meeting at Carnegie 
Hall. I had pointed out that throughout the history of bigotry, 
bigots had selected as their victims the most vulnerable minority 
in any given area against which prejudice and fear could be most 
easily created. Acts of violence or denial of justice to that minority 
usually created protests at the inception of such a campaign. But, 
in time, the recurrence of such episodes became less and less noticed 
until there was common acceptance of such patterns of prejudice. 

I had gone on to point out that after the most vulnerable minority 
had been victimized, the bigots had extended their activities to the 
next most defenseless group and from that one to the next until 
Ifcerty was either destroyed or gravely restricted for all. I had cited 
the development of the Know-Nothing and the KKK movements 
in the United States, nazism in Germany, and anti-Semitism in Czar- 
ist Russia and Poland as examples. 

My luncheon host had been most extravagant in his over-praise 
of what seemed to me a simple statement of fact. He told me of his 
abolitionist ancestry and of his own contributions to support of 
Tuskegee Institute. He tactfully mentioned that he was financially 

No Road Back to Atlanta 355 

able to make a sizable contribution to the NAACP and asked me 
^o send him literature descriptive of the Association’s work which 
ne wanted to use in persuading his friends and relatives to make 
contributions also. 

“But,” he told me, “you are making a serious mistake and doing 
grave injury to your cause by linking it with that of the Jews.” I 
was so startled at the swift transition that I paused involuntarily in 
replacing my coffee cup on the saucer, holding it suspended in 

“Most Americans really like Negroes, but they hate Jews,” he 
finished, almost spitting out the last three words. I left him soon 
after that, and he probably wondered why I was so cool to his praise 
of the NAACP, and his vague offers of help. I had long since learned 
that no faith can safely be reposed in any man who believes he has 
no prejudice against one minority while he indiscriminately hates 
another one. The problems of persecuted minorities differ in histori- 
cal background and in certain details. But in a basic fashion they are 
identical in that persecution always arises from the same desire for 
selfish individual or group security and gain, from the same igno- 
rance, from the same unreasoned and baseless fears. 

To return to the UN debate on partitioning of Palestine. I talked 
with representatives of Haiti, Liberia, the Philippines, and several 
other countries whose votes on the issue were destined to be im- 
portant. I freely admitted that partition seemed to be only a very 
temporary expedient but I suggested that for humanity’s sake it 
would be wise to vote for the only immediate remedy which had 
been proposed in the hope that thereby time could be gained to 
work out a more lasting solution, if there was any lasting solution. 

A seemingly unrelated and minor episode (save that all episodes 
in the story of race hatreds are related) added to the difficulties. I 
read in the New York Post one October afternoon a huge adver- 
tisement of the revival on Broadway of The Birth of a Nation^ the 
distorted David W. Griffith film of the Reconstruction Era which 
glorified the Ku KIux Klan and grossly libeled the Negro as a 
brutish rapist. 

I knew the owner of the theater. His son and my son had been 
classmates at the Ethical Culture School in New York City. He 

35<S A Man Called White 

had invited me on several occasions to be a week-end guest at his 
home in a New York suburb. I telephoned him at his home on 
reading the advertisement and he was most cordial until I told him 
the purpose of my call. He denied that he had ever heard that the 
infamous film glorified the Klan or defamed Negroes. He told me 
that he had exhibited the picture more than four hundred times 
during the past twenty-five years in various theaters he owned, and 
had never been told that it had created riots and other disorders or that, 
because of this, it had been banned in a number of cities. He bluntly 
refused to consider withdrawing it and added gratuitously, “I have 
been a friend of your people, but of course I don’t expect any 
gratitude.” I restrained with difficulty the anger which welled up 
within me at the condescension of his statement and repressed the 
temptation to tell him of the friendship I was exhibiting toward his 
people through the work I was doing for the partition of Palestine. 
The conversation ended when he informed me that he had a number 
of theater guests who were waiting for him. 

When the picture opened the following morning, we threw a 
picket line in front of the theater. The picketing proceeded peace- 
fully through Saturday and Sunday with almost complete abstention 
of the public from entering the theater. On Saturday afternoon a 
representative of the theater, waving his hand at the pickets, pro- 
posed to me, “If you will get rid of all this, we will see if we 
can put in another picture on Monday.” His offer was swiftly and 
unequivocally refused. 

Sunday afternoon the quiet and effective picket line was inun- 
dated by a large number of lusty-lunged members of an organiza- 
tion which had recently changed its name from the Young Com- 
munist League to American Youth for Democracy. We knew that 
participation by real or alleged Communists in the picketing would 
label the affair “just another Communist demonstration” and would 
imply our involvement with extraneous political ideologies. We, 
therefore, promptly withdrew our pickets and explained to the 
newspaper reporters why we did so. Fortunately, the AYD pickets 
disappeared shortly thereafter and we resumed our picketing until 
the was withdrawn the following Friday. 

But I had to answer repeatedly the question from some of die 

No Road Back to Atlanta 357 

Haitians and Liberians as to why we fought for partition when an 
anti-Negro film like The Birth of a Nation was exhibited on Broad- 
way by a member of the race we were trying to help. I had to 
explain over and over again that what one individual did should 
not be held against the other members of any racial, religious, or 
national group and to point out that the most dangerous of all 
practices from which Negroes had suffered most was the attachment 
of odium to an entire group because of the shortsightedness of one 
member of that group. 

When the vote on Palestine was taken, Haiti, Liberia, and the 
Philippines voted for partition instead of against it as they had 
previously declared their intention of doing. Those three votes de- 
cided the issue. 

The NAACP’s growing conviction that the battle for the Negro’s 
freedom must be fought on a world-wide, rather than a merely 
American, front, involved me in the affairs of the West Indies in 
1947. When a conference on the West Indies was announced for 
September 1947, by Sir Arthur Creech-Jones, British Colonial Sec- 
retary, a meeting of West Indian and American leaders was held 
in my office. We talked at length about the desperate plight of the 
overwhelming majority of the British West Indian people, im- 
poverished because most of the profits of their agriculture were 
reaped by absentee landlords in England. We were also gravely con- 
cerned because, although the problems of the peoples of the various 
islands were largely identical, the difficulty of intercommunication 
between the islands had prevented united consideration of the basic 

Increasing squalor, misery, and poverty, combined with the de- 
terioration of the British Empire as a result of World Wars One and 
Two, have fanned the flame of demand for freedom in the West 
Indies as it has all over the world. In Jamaica, where one half of the 
three million inhabitants of the British West Indies live, a shrewd, 
rabble-rousing soldier of political fortune named Alexander Busta- 
mante had risen swiftly to power by capitalizing on the misery of 
the oppressed classes of that island. In conflict with wiser leaders 
whose objective was federation of the British West Indian islands 

358 A Man Called White 

and the attainment of dominion status, Bustamante demanded com- 
plete independence, although he presented no program for solution 
of die almost insuperable economic problems facing the islands as 
a result of centuries of exploitation. 

There were present at the meeting in my office A. A. Austin, a 
successful real estate operator in New York City, Dr. Lucian Brown 
of New York, and several others. Before the meeting ended the 
American Committee for West Indian Freedom was formed with 
Mr. Austin and myself as cochairmen. 

The preliminary conference of leaders from the various islands 
at Kingston, Jamaica, under the auspices of the Caribbean Labour 
Congress was extraordinarily successful. Although the fiery Busta- 
mante bitterly opposed the proposal to create a federation of seven 
British West Indian islands, he later voted for federation. There 
was frank presentation to the Colonial Secretary of the problems 
of the islands and insistence upon greater self-government through 
federation and eventual dominion status. Although complete unity 
appears to be more a hope than an achievement and although the 
perplexing problem of economic security must yet be solved, a very 
marked advance toward the solution to the economic and political 
problems of the British islands in the Caribbean has been made. 

World-wide attention was focused on the problem of color by 
die presentation to the United Nations of an appeal on behalf of 
the Negro American which had been prepared under the direction 
of Dr. DuBois. He had written the first section and several chapters 
had been prepared by Dr. Rayford Logan of Howard University, 
Professor Milton Konvitz of Cornell University, Earl Dickerson 
and W. Robert Ming of Chicago, and Leslie Perry of Washington, 
D. C. In one hundred and fifty-five carefully documented pages the 
grim story of legal proscription, economic injustice, and mob vio- 
lence against American Negroes had been set forth in temperate and 
unanswerable language. 

The appeal created an international sensation. We were flooded 
with requests for copies of the document, particularly from nations 
which were critical of the United States, including Russia, Great 
Britain, and the Union of South Africa. It 'vyas manifest that they 

No Road Back to Atlanta 359 

were pleased to have documentary proof that the United States did 
not practice what it preached about freedom and democracy. But it 
was equally apparent that Russia, Great Britain, and the Union of 
South Africa were morally afraid that acceptance of the appeal on 
behalf of American Negroes and action on the document would 
establish a precedent giving the United Nations authority in those 

Dr. DuBois spent several futile weeks in correspondence and 
telephone calls to Trygve Lie’s office in an attempt to arrange for 
a delegation to present the petition formally to top officials of the 
UN. He was urged to mail the petition to Mr. Lie’s office obviously 
to avoid any publicity for the presentation. Dr. DuBois firmly 
refused to permit the petition to be sidetracked in this fashion, and 
we finally presented it in M. Langier’s office at the Human Rights 
Commission. We knew that for the time being at least the UN 
would use every possible stratagem to avoid any formal action on it. 
We knew also that its chief value would be its dragging out into 
the open the grim facts of denial of even elementary justice to 
human beings because of color. But we were convinced that in time 
the petition would stimulate other appeals from other minorities in 
other parts of the world and form a pattern of information which 
no society of nations could evade. 

When the Human Rights Commission met at Geneva later under 
the chairmanship of Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, the Soviet government 
demanded that the NAACP petition and one other from the Inter- 
national Congress of Women, should be received and acted upon to 
the exclusion of any other petitions. Mrs. Roosevelt took the sound 
position that all bona fide petitions should be received and investi- 
gated or none at all. 

From the time when I first came to New York at Jim Johnson’s 
invitation to join the NAACP until now, I have lived in Harlem. 
But when, in 1947 , 1 had a heart attack, and specialists told me that 
unless I reduced my work and slowed up I might develop a serious 
heart ailment and die in two or three years, it seemed wise to supple- 
ment my home with an apartment near the office where I could rest 
for an hour during the middle of the day. It was also becoming 

360 A Mm Called White 

increasingly necessary for me to find a place close to the ofiice 
where, uninterrupted by telephone calls and visitors, I could write 
my two columns weekly, articles, this book, and my speeches. 

My daughter Jane located one of New York’s virtually non- 
existent vacant apartments through a former classmate whose father 
was president of a huge apartment house corporation located very 
close to my office. But just as the deal was about to be closed, Jane’s 
classmate reported that although the apartment was vacant, I could 
not rent it “because the presence of a Negro would jeopardize the 
floating of a large bond issue which was being planned to refinance 
the apartment building.” The individuals who made the decision 
were among the most active advocates of the partition of Palestine. 

Nor is that the only time when, in the post war years, and north 
of Mason and Dixon’s line, I have had the cry “Run, nigger, run!” 
hurled at me. Late in 1947 my article called “Why I Remain a 
Negro” was published in the Saturday Review of Literature and 
later in Reader^s Digest and the Negro Digest. In it I attempted to 
tell simply and anecdotally the story of why I had decided not to 

A flood of letters and telegrams poured in in response to the 
article from men and women like Albert Einstein, Carl Van Vechten, 
Eric Johnston, Darryl Zanuck, Clare Bobthe Luce, and from many 
whose names were quite unknown to me, and though most of them 
praised the article, among the latter there were a number that were 
bitterly hostile. Some of the most sympathetic and understanding 
comments were written by Southern white women; some of the 
most bitter came from Northern or border cities. One indignant 
woman in Iowa demanded, “If you niggers don’t like it here, why 
don’t you go back where you came from?” 

I was strongly tempted to reply that I did not think Herman 
Talmadge and Dr. Green of the Ku Klux Klan would want me 
back in Georgia. 

All Shadows Are Dark 

For over thirty years I have been active in the fight to destroy racial 
prejudice. When one is fighting against evil his attention is inevitably 
concentrated on evidences that the evil still is rampant, rather than 
on those which show that, in some places, it is abating. It would 
be impossible, through reiteration of wearily repetitious episodes to 
overstress the cruelties and injustices which Negroes have suffered 
for centuries, and are still suffering. Yet this book would badly fail 
to make one of its most important points if it did not call attention 
to some more hopeful aspects of the matter. 

Here, listed briefly, are some isolated evidences, taken at random 
from many. These things are facts today. They would have seemed 
to most Negroes only a dream of the millennium even twenty-five 
years ago. 

In 1948, the University of Delaware, influenced by the Supreme 
Court decision in the Ada Sipuel case, announced that Negro appli- 
cants for graduate and professional courses not offered to them else- 
where in the state would be admitted without segregation. 

In 1948 the Board of Education of Freehold, New Jersey, abol- 
ished the rule which made Negroes go to public schools assigned 
to them (in fact, segregated schools) and announced that all stu- 
dents could attend the schools nearest them, thus abolishing segre- 

In Trenton, New Jersey, not only has segregation been com* 
pletely abolished in the public schools, but some Negro teachers arc 
teaching white, as well as colored, children. 

The University of Arkansas, following the Sipuel decision, has 


362 A Man Called White 

announced that it will accept qualified Negro students for its law 

school, though it will teach them in separate classrooms. 

In 1948 New Jersey abolished segregation in its National Guard, 
announcing that it would carry out its plan, even if the United 
States government (still insisting on its archaic and cruel policy of 
segregation in the armed forces) withdrew support. 

Encouraged by the New Jersey action, the late Governor James 
L. McConaughty of Connecticut renewed his efforts to have segre- 
gation abandoned in the Connecticut National Guard. 

On May 3, 1948, the United States Supreme Court handed down a 
unanimous decision outlawing restrictive covenants in real estate 
deeds— i.e., clauses which forbid the sale of property to a buyer 
because of his race. This marked the culmination of a thirty-one- 
year fight waged by the NAACP at a cost of more than $100,000 
to break the pattern of the ghetto for American racial and religious 
minorities. The unequivocal language and the unanimity of the 
Court made constitutional authorities present in the crowded court- 
room call the decision the most important assertion of civil rights 
handed down by the Court since the notorious Dred Scott decision 
of 1857 which declared that “Negroes have no rights which a white 
man is bound to respect.” 

In several New York City offices of which I have firsthand knowl- 
edge (and in other cities) Negroes and whites work side by side 
most amicably in responsible positions, and it is a common sight 
to see mixed groups of laborers repairing New York’s perpetually 
tom-up streets. But a friend has reported to me something which 
goes a step beyond this, and which would probably be incredible 
to several Southern senators. On a street in lower Manhattan, in 
this Year of Grace 1948, he watched a gang of a dozen white street 
laborers working under the direction of a skilled Negro foreman 
Time does march on! 

Negroes are today teaching in more than seventy-five nonseg- 
regated American colleges and universities and the demand for 
additional teachers is steadily increasing, some of the institutions 
seeking such teachers being ones which until recently admitted no 
Negroes as students. 

There are today more than one million Negroes who are regis- 

All Shadows Are Dark 363 

tered voters in the South and cast their ballots without difficulty. 
The number steadily increases and rival wings of the Democratic 
Party in many Southern states and towns are bidding for the Negro 
vote. Of less publicized but equally important influence upon the 
Southern scene is the circumstance that our fight to enfranchise 
Negroes has played a considerable part in enfranchisement of whites 
and a greater interest in who is elected to office. 

More than 1,500,000 Negroes are today members of trade unions 
and many of them serve as officers of nonsegregated locals, elected 
by the white as well as Negro members. The loyalty and indus- 
triousness of many of these Negro unionists has been a marked 
influence in causing most of the unions to become militant fighters 
against racial discrimination. 

All officers’ training schools of the armed services, all of them 
located in the Deep South, are completely integrated: infantry at 
Fort Penning, Georgia; aviation at Randolph Field in Texas; field 
artillery at Oklahoma’s Fort Sill; armored infantry at Fort Knox, 
Kentucky; and airborne at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg. There have 
been no friction and no untoward circumstances in the total oblitera- 
tion of segregation in these schools, the arguments of the segre- 
gationists that “it can’t work” to the contrary notwithstanding. 

Book publishers and editors of magazines and newspapers with 
but a very few exceptions today welcome forthright writing about 
the Negro from both Negro and white writers, asking only that the 
authors write well and have something to say. 

This is only a smattering of the sound evidence that the leaven is 
working. These things I have seen, and many more like them, and 
I have found deep satisfaction in them. If I have said little of them 
in this book it is only that there are so many more events of the sort 
I have reported, and I am convinced that until the balance swings 
the other way, democracy, and even human civilization, are in 
grave danger of destruction by racism. 

And at the root of my anger and my frequent deep discourage- 
ment, is the knowledge that all race prejudice (save that which is 
deliberately uttered in base attempts to gain political or economic 
advantage by men and women to whom the phrase “honesty of 
purpose” has no meaning) is founded on one of the most absurd 

364 A Man Called White 

fallacies in all thought— the belief that there is a basic difference 

between a Negro and a white man. 

There is no such basic difference. 

More and more scientists, realizing the dire importance of the 
race problem to human welfare, are going out of their way to state 
unequivocally the falseness of the belief that such a difference exists. 
Only the other day I read such a brief statement in a book by a 
famed biologist, though the book was essentially about the crying 
need for soil conservation. “The saying ‘We are all brothers under 
the skin,’ ” he wrote, “has a basis in scientific fact. . . . The antipa- 
thies of nations and races, the cults of ‘superior’ and ‘inferior’ races, 
cannot be founded on biology.” ^ 

Even the belief that racial markings are apparent in a Negro, no 
matter how light he is, has over and over been proved false. 

Some years ago I met in London Sir Arthur Keith, president of 
the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Before he 
spoke a word of greeting, he extended a long, bony hand in wel- 
come and, abstractedly, continued to hold my hand as he examined 
my features intently, 

“The only way I can tell that you have Negro blood is by the 
shape of your eyes,” were his first words. 

Startled, I asked him, “What is there in them which reveals my 
ancestry .J*” 

He did not reply immediately but continued his scrutiny of my 
face. It probably lasted no more than a minute, but the time seemed 
much longer. Sir Arthur then shook his head as though trying to rid 
it of cobwebs. 

“No— I’m wrong. If you had not told me in one of your letters 
that you have Negro ancestry, I would have seen nothing. But be- 
cause you did tell me, I thought I saw some indication. That’s un- 
scientific. Sit down, won’t you— and let’s talk.” 

Suppose the skin of every Negro in America were suddenly to 
turn white. What would happen to all the notions about Negroes, 
the bases on which are built race prejudice and race hatred? What 
would become of their presumed shiftlessness, their cowardice, their 

^ Fairfield Osborn, Our Plundered Planet. Boston: Little, Brown and Com- 
pany, 1948. 

All Shadows Are Dark 365 

dishonesty, their stupidity, their body odor? Would they not merge 
with the shiftlessness, the cowardice, the dishonesty, the stupidity, 
and the body odor of the whites? Would they not then be subject 
to individual judgment in matters of abilities, energies, honesty, 
cleanliness, as are whites? How else could they be judged? 

As my father lay dying in a jimcrow hospital in Atlanta he put 
into words for my brother and me the faith which had sustained him 
throughout his life. “Human kindness, decency, love, whatever you 
wish to call it,” he said, “is the only real thing in the world. It is a 
dynamic, not a passive, emotion. It’s up to you two, and others like 
you, to use your education and talents in an effort to make love as 
positive an emotion in the world as are prejudice and hate. That’s 
the only way the world can save itself. Don’t forget that. No matter 
what happens, you must love, not hate.” 

I have remembered that. I have remembered that when, sitting in 
the gallery of the House or the Senate, I have heard members of 
our Congress rise and spill diatribe and vilification on the Negroes. I 
have remembered it when the Negroes were condemned as utter 
failures in soldiering. 

I remembered it when I talked with my nephew for the last time, 
as he lay in a bitterly cold, rain-drenched tent on the edge of the 
Capodichina airfield near Naples. He was a Georgia boy, the young- 
est of four children. His father, like mine, was a mail carrier. He, 
like me, could have passed for a white man. By sacrifice and labor 
his parents provided him with a college education. He won a mas- 
ter’s degree in economics, and the next day enlisted in the Army 
Air Forces, as a Negro. He went to the segregated field at Tuskegee, 

He hated war, he loathed killing. But he believed that Hitler and 
Mussolini represented the kind of hate he had seen exhibited in 
Georgia by the Ku Klux Klan and the degenerate political dema- 
gogues. He believed that the war would bring all of that hate to an 
end. He was a fighter pilot. He fought well. Over the Anzio beach- 
head he was shot down, bailing out and escaping with his right leg 
broken in two places. He was offered an opportunity to return 
home but he refused it. “I’ll stick it out until the war is finished or 
I am,” he told a friend. Later, returning from a bomber escort 

366 A Man Called White 

mission to Germany, his plane lost altitude over Hungary, was fired 
upon by antiaircraft batteries, and was seen striking a tree and burst- 
ing into flames. That was the end of one of the men Senator East- 
land of Mississippi described as "'utter and dismal failures in combat 
in Europe.” 

It would be easy to grow bitter over such things, but in remem- 
bering my nephew and our last conversation, in which he asked me 
whether the war would really bring an end to prejudice and race 
hatred, I remember also the Negro corporal of an engineers unit, 
who said to me, “This is the only work they would give me, but I 
don’t mind. We learn a trade; we do constructive work. The com- 
bat soldiers are taught how to kill. It will bother them. It will stick 
with them. It will have no effect on us. We will not have to un- 
learn it.” 

There have been times when I have felt with a sweep of fear that 
the patience of the colored man is close to its end. I remember the 
clamoring stillness and the blood heat of a day in Georgia. I re- 
member how I felt when I stood beside my father and feared that 
the whites would not let me live, that I must kill them first and then 
be killed. 

Yet I know, I know, I know that there is no reason for this killing, 
this hatred, this demarcation. There is no difference between the 
killer and the killed. Black is white and white is black. When one 
shoots the other he kills his reflection. Only hate, the negative force, 
can separate them; only love, the positive force, can bind them to- 

I am one of the two in the color of my skin; I am the other in 
my spirit and my heart. It is only a love of both which binds the 
two together in me, and it is only love for each other which will 
join them in the common aims of civilization that lie before us. I 
love one for the sins she has committed and the fight she has made 
to conquer them— and conquer them, in great degree, she has. I love 
the other for her patience and her sorrows, for the soft sound of her 
singing, and for the great dawn which is coming upon her, in which 
her vigor and her faith will serve the world. 

I am white and I am black, and know that there is no difference. 
Each casts a shadow, and all shadows are dark. 


Academy of Arts and Sciences, 200 
Adams, E. S., 222 
Adams, Myron W., 27 
Addams, Jane, 140 
Addes, George, 213 
Africa, 203, 296, 299; colonies in, 60, 
62; French Equatorial, 258*-6i; North 
African war theater, 253; slavery in 
Sierra Leone, 96 

Aiken, South Carolina, lynching, 56-59 
Aldrich, Winthrop W., 349, 350 
Alexander, Sadie T., 332 
Allen, Henry J., 113 
Allen, J. Weston, 152 
Alston, Melvin O., 114, 163 
American Bar Association, 85, 147, 295 
American Broadcasting System, 348 
American Committee for West Indian 
Freedom, 358 

American Federation of Labor, 106, 
American Fund for Public Service, 

American Heritage Foundation, 349, 
35L 352 

American Jewish Committee, 295 
American Medical Association, 295 
American Missionary Association, 70 
American Red Cross, 80, 248, 293 
American Youth for Democracy, 356 
Amherst College, 143 
Anderson, Marian, 174, 180-85, 342; 

sings at Lincoln Memorial, 185 
Anderson, Maxwell, 68, 232 
Annapolis, 190 

Anti-Semitism, 25, 26, 225, 246, 296, 

298, 305* 330 

Anti-Slavery and Aborigines Protec- 
tion Society, 96 

Arabs, 296; and Palestine partition, 352 
Arkansas race riot, 44, 47-51 ; court pro- 
ceedings, 49-53, 128 
Arkansas, University of, 361 

Armed Forces, Air Force, 223, 255-57; 
Army Medical Laboratory, 291; and 
Brownsville, Texas, riot, 102-103; 
censorship, 282-83, 288; civilian bru- 
tality to soldiers, 222, 264, 308, 325- 
328; courts-martial, 103, 223, 244-46, 
247» 274-76, 282-85, 303-304; in De- 
troit riot, 226; in Harlem riot, 234, 
236; and integration of races, 249-50, 
255; Navy Department, 220-23, 285; 
Navy Public Relations, 271, 272; and 
Negro, 36, 70, 102, 103, 140, 186-87, 
188, 189, 190, 191, 220-23, 235, 242- 
252, 253-58, 263, 272, 273-76, 277-93, 
340-42, 363, 365, 366; race clashes, 
242, 243, 273, 292; Second Cavalry 
Division, 253, 254; Secretary of the 
Navy, 190, 191, 217, 220; treatment 
of Negroes in South, 222-23, 235; 
War Department, 102, 220-23, 226, 
242, 252, 254, 276; 24th Infantry, 
102, 103; 79th Pursuit Group, 255, 
257; 99th Pursuit Squadron, 255, 
256; 368th Infantry Regiment, 223; 
369th Regiment, 235, 273; 1320th 
Engineer Regiment, 274-76 
Armstrong, Daniel, 275 
Arm wood, George, 140 
Army, see Armed Forces 
Arnall, Ellis, 7, 323 
Arthur, Jean, 232 
Asia, 203 

Associated Press, 46, 123, 316 
Association of American Law Schools, 


Atlanta College of Physicians and Sur- 
geons, 135 

Atlanta Constitutiony 6, 217 
Atlanta Georgiany 37 
Atlanta Journal, 8 

Atlanta Life Insurance Company, 24, 

Atlanta News, 5, 8 



Atlanta race riot, 6, 8, 9-12 
Atlanta University, 13, 24, 25, 27, 273, 

Atlantic Monthly^ The^ 206 
Austin, A. A., 358 
Australia, 292, 293 
Australia Sociological Society, 292 

Baird, David A., 1 12, 1 13 
Baker, Ray Stannard, 8 
Baltimore Sun^ 140, 178 
Bankhead, John, 266 
Bankhead, Tallulah, 232 
Barden, Deacon, 159 
Barkley, Alben, 270 
Barnhill, M. V., 157, 158, 159 
Barr, George, 253, 257 
Barthe, Richmond, 338 
Bartlett, Vernon, 295 
Bates, Ruby, 126, 128, 131 
Battle, Samuel, 237 
Beaumont, Texas, riot, 222, 234 
Beddow, Roderick, 128, 129, 130 
Belgium, 61 
Bellamy, Ralph, 232 
Bellegard, Dantes, 115, 118 
Bennett, Harry, 213 
Bennett, Joan, 43 
Berlin, Irving, 350 
Bethune, Mary McLeod, 174 
Bilbo, Theodore G., 89, 173, 177, 268, 
269, 270 

Bill of Rights, 349, 350 
Birth of a Nation, 8, 355-56 
Birthright, 65 
Black, Algernon, 240 
Black, Hugo, in, 177-79; opposes 
anti-lynching statutes, 177 
Black Legion, 225 
Black, Lucille, 228, 233 
Blair, Julius, 319 
Blair, Sol, 310, 311, 316 
Blease, Cole, 108 
Bluford, Lucille, 162 
Blythe, June, 231 
B’nai B’rith, 26 
Boeuf sur le Toit, 93 
Bonaparte, Napoleon, 1 18 
Bontemps, Ama, 338 
Bookman, The, 67 

Borah, William £., 106, 168; defeated 
by Negro voters, 171-72; opposes 
anti-lynching legidation, 171, 173 

Boycott, efFective use by Negroes, 37 
Bradley, Omar, 249 
Bradley, William Aspenwall, 92 
Bratton, U. S., 48 
Bright, John J., 338 
British, see Great Britain 
British Association for the Advance- 
ment of Science, 364 
Brodsky, Joseph R., 131 
Brophy, Thomas D’A., 349 
Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, 
142, 186, 193 

Brough, Charles H., 49-50 

Broun, Heywood, 43, 68, 109, 115, 168 

Brown, Carter, 30 

Brown, Lucien, 358 

Brown, Prentiss M., 189 

Brown, Warren, 206 

Brownsville, Texas, riot, 102- 103 

Brummitt, Dennis, 157 

Bryant, Victor, 157 

Buchanan v. Warley, 72 

Burleigh, Harry T., 174, 18 1 

Bustamante, Alexander, 357-58 

Butler, Pierce, 87 

Byrd, Daniel, 324 

Byrnes, James F., 266-67, 3^* 

Cahill, Marie, 115 

Caldwell, Erskine, 232 

California, University of, 193, 221, 222 

Calloway, Cab, 237 

Campobello Island, 222 

Candler, Asa A., 31-32 

Cannon, Poppy, 338 

Capper, Arthur, 189 

Caraway, Ward Beecher, 328, 329 

Cardozo, Benjamin, 87 

Carey, James, 330, 331, 332 

Caribbean Labour Congress, 358 

Carnegie Hall, 34, 354 

Carter, Robert, 325 

Cather, Willa, 43 

Catholics, 56, 199, 225, 246, 296, 330, 332 
Chalmers, Allan Knight, 132-33 
Chamlee, George W., 131 
Chapman, Oscar, 181, 184 
Chase, Ilka, 232 
Chawke, Thomas, 79 
Chicago, 73, 226; Housing Authority, 
306; race riot, 44-46; South Side, 44- 
46; University of, 63, 165, 304 
Chicago Daily News, 44, 49, 52 


Chicago Defendery 49, 344 
Citizens Committee on Displaced Per- 
sons, 353 

City-Wide Citizens Committee on 
Harlem, 240 

Civil rights, 54, 88, 331; President’s 
Committee on, 332-33, 348, 351 
Civil Rights Congress, 315 
Civil War, 84, 94, 97, 123, 157 
Clansman, The, 8 
Clark, Tom, 330, 349 
Clarke, Edward Young, 54, 55 
Clement VI, 96 
Cobb, Irvin S., 67 
Cocteau, Jean, 93 
Collier's, 204 

Colonial system, 60-62, 264, 288-90; 
British West Indies, 357-58; and San 
Francisco Conference, 296, 298-300 
Color line, 4, 63, 80, 138, 247, 274 
Colson, William N., 64 
Columbia Broadcasting System, 231, 

Columbia, Tennessee, lynching, 166 
Columbia University, 63, 64 
Communism, see Communists 
Communist National Board, 346 
Communists, 68, 128, 129-33, 263, 

314, 31S-16, 334, 335, 344, 347, 351. 356 
Congress, 93, 100, 304, 329, 330, 331, 
365; anti-lynching filibuster, 42, 167, 
168, 171, 173, 177, 179, 267; and anti- 
lynching legislation, 42, 120-24, 167- 
168, 171, 172, 263, 264, 297; and anti- 
poll tax legislation, 133, 139, 263, 264, 
269, 297; attitude of Westerners to 
Negro, 170-71; Borah attacks Costi- 
gan-Wagner bill, 171-72; debates 
nomination of John J. Parker, 105- 
iio; and FEPC, 193-94, 263, 269-70; 
and filibuster costs, 17 1; House Judi- 
ciary Committee, 123, 172; House 
Rules Committee, 330, 331; members 
attack Negro soldier, 268; and Negro 
voters, 263; proposes investigation of 
wartime discrimination, 189; Senate 
Armed Services Committee, 251; 
Senate Foreign Relations Commit- 
tee, 297; Senate investigation of flood- 
control projects, 83; Senate Judici- 
My Committee, 105, 106, 168; senior- 
ity in chairmanships, 84; Southern 
members, 84, 120, 152, 169, 178 


Congress of Industrial Organizations, 
193,211,268, 295,330, 332 
Connally, Tom, 108, 173, 177, 270, 297 
Connelly, Marc, 338 
Constitution, 84, 89, 207, 350; “due 
process” clause, 52, 128; Fifteenth 
Amendment, 85, 88; Fourteenth 
Amendment, 87, 88, 163; Seven- 
teenth Amendment, 85-86; Thir- 
teenth Amendment, 48 
Constitution Hall, 180, 182 
Coolidge, Calvin, 330 
Cornell University, 358 
Cornish, George, 317 
Costigan-Wagner anti-lynching bill, 
140, 167; William E. Borah and, 
171-72; Roosevelt and, 168-70 
Coughlin, Father, 225 
Counterattack, 346 

Courts and legal defense, Arkansas 
riot, 49-53, 128; Lucille Bluford, 162; 
Columbia, Tennessee, riot victims, 
309-21; George Crawford, 152-56; 
education cases, 143-52, 156-62; Leo 
Frank case, 25-26; Lloyd Gaines case, 
162; Thomas Hocutt case, 156-58; 
lynchers, 323, 325; Donald Murray 
case, 160; restrictive covenant cases, 
306-307; Scottsboro case, 127-33; Ada 
Lois Sipuel case, 144-48, 149, 152; 
Hemon Sweatt case, 148-52; Henry 
Sweet case, 79; Ossian Sweet case, 
75-79; teachers* salaries in Virginia, 
1 14; use of torture in, 179, 267; 
white primary cases, 86-91 
Courts-martial, 103, 223, 244-46, 247, 
274-76, 282-85, 303-304 
Covenants, see Restricted covenants 
Cowl, Jane, 232 
Cramer, Lawrence, 193 
Crane, Henry Hitt, 217 
Crawford, George, 152 
Creech-Jones, Arthur, 357, 358 
Crim, John W., 70 

Crime, and courts-martial 284-85; Ne- 
gro and alleged, 6, 43, 49, 58, 152, 155, 
179, 225, 271, 355; and Scottsboro 
case, 126-29, 131 

Crisis, The, 60, iii, 113, 129, 17 1 
Crosswaith, Frank R., 192 
Crump, Edward H., 351 
Cullen, Countee, 43, 338 
Current, Gloster, 228 

370 Index 

Curtii^ John, Prime Minister of Aus- 
tralia, 292, 293 

Dabney, Virginias, 154, 206 
Daily Tarheel^ They 159 
Daily Worker, 129, 314, 319, 347 
Damrosch, Walter, 181 
Daniels, Josephus, 217 
Danville Register, 173 
Darrow, Clarence, 75-79, 128, 129 
Daughters of the American Revolu- 
tion, 180, 181-83 
Davis, Benjamin J., 347 
Davis, Benjamin J., Sr., 31 
Davis, Benjamin O., x88 
Davis, John W., 205 
Declaration of Independence, 90, 349 
Dedmon, Jesse O., 303 
De Gaulle, General, 259 
Delaware, University of, 361 
Democratic party, 6-7, 100, 187-88, 198, 
262, 263, 266, 267, 268, 345, 346; white 
primary, 86-91 
Denmark, 68 

Dennis, Charles H., 44, 49 
Department of Justice, 55, 70, 207, 264, 
319, 321, 324, 325 
Dessalines, Jean Jacques, 118 
Detroit, 73, 307; auto workers, 211-19; 
Negro population, 73; police, 73, 224, 
226-27, 228; race riot, 217, 224-30, 
231, 235, 260; riot victims, 226-27 
Devers, Jacob L., 255 
Dewey, Thomas E,, 268 
Diagne, Blaise, 62-63 
Dickerson, Earl B., 193, 358 
Dickey, John S., 333 
Discrimination, attempted in France, 
63; in civil service, 140; cost in edu- 
cation, 146; by DAR, 180, 181; 
economic factors, 72; against fl<wd 
refugees, 80; and jury prejudice, 
78; and migration, 72; on Missis- 
sippi Bood-control project, 81; 
against Negro lawyers, 152-53, 156; 
in New York City hospitals, 63-64; 
in Norfolk, Virginia, school system, 
114, 163; and public opinion, 73; 
in relief funds, 140; s^non3nnous 
with segregation, 148; m teachers’ 
salaries, 114, 163-65; at Tuskegee 
Institute, 69; in World War I, 36; 
see also Amed Forces, Education, 

Emplo^ent, Housing 
Disfrancnisement, 72, 97, 120, 140, 
142, 265, 348; advocated by John 
J. Parker, 104; in Atlanta, 30; at- 
tempted through Klan terror, 55; 
basically illegal, 89, 91; by “grani 
father clause,” 84-85, 105; Guinn 
V. United States, 85, 105; history 
of, 84-85; Nixon V. Herndon, 83; 
in North Carolina, 105, 106; in 
Oklahoma, 84-85; by registration, 85; 
Smith V. Allwright, 83; in South 
Carolina, 89-91; and Supreme 
Court, 83; in Texas, 85-89; by “un- 
derstanding clauses,” 84, 85, 91, 105; 
see also Poll tax 
Dixon, Thomas, 8 
Dobie, J. Frank, 150 
Doran, George H., 66, 67 
Doro, Marie, 43 
Dorsey, Hugh M., 26 
Dos Passos, John, 288-89 
Douglass, Frederick, 175 
Drew, Charles R., 267 
Du Bois, W. E. B., 60, 61, 107, 174, 294, 
358, 359 

Duck Hill, Mississippi, lynching, 123, 

Duke University, 157 
Duncan, Isadora, 92 
Durham, W. J., 151 
Dutch New Guinea, 288-90 
Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill, 42 

Early, Stephen, 187, 188 
Eastland, James O., 268, 366 
Eboue, Felix, 258, 259-60, 261 
Education, in Arkansas, 361; in At- 
lanta, 29-33, 37-38; attitude of white 
students toward Negroes, 145, 146- 
147, 150-51, 157, 161, 162; in Dela- 
ware, 361; federal aid bill, 177; fed- 
eral funds for, 140, 142; Lloyd 
Gaines, 144, 162; in Maryland, 160; 
in Missouri, 143, 162; in New Jersejr, 
361; in Norfolk, Virginia, X14; in 
North, 72; in North Carolina, 156- 
x6o; in Oklahoma, 144-48; Ada 
Sipuel, 144-48, 149, 152, 361; state 
funds for, 143-52; Hemon Sweatee 
148-52; teachers’ salaries, 114, 163- 
165; Truman on, 348 
Eichelberger, Qark, 298 


Eichelbeimr, Robert L., 252 
Einstein, Albert, 360 
Elisenhower, Dwight D., 103, 244, 245, 
247, 248, 249, 251, 252 
Elections, see Political control 
Ellender, Allen, 269 
Ellington, Duke, 232, 235 
Ellis, Manr, 43 
Elmore, Ueorge, 89 
Emancipation Proclamation, 349 
Embree, Edwin, 338 
Emergency Committee of the Enter- 
tainment Industry, 231, 232 
Employment, 178, 240, 304, 348, 362; 
decline during 1930’s, 141; in defense 
industries, 186, 188, 189, i^, 191, 
192-94, 2<^; discrimination in, 142, 
21 1, 240, 265; federal aid, 141; Ford 
Motor Company, 211-17; and Ku 
Klux Klan, 224; labor unions, 21 1, 
263, 363; and migration, 72; of Negro 
lawyers, 153, 156; of Negroes on 
Mississippi flood-control projects. 
81; postwar, 304, 344; of Southerners 
in war industries, 224-30 
England, see Great Britain 
Ernst, Morris, 333 

Estill Spring, Tennessee, lynching, 40- 

Ethical Culture School, 355 
Ethridge, Mark, 193 
Europe, 60-63, 94-98, 203, 220, 228, 242- 
252, 259, 366 

Executive Order 8802, 193 
Extradition, opposed by NAACP, 152 

Fair Employment Practices Commit- 
tee, 193-94, 269, 304; legislation, 194, 
263, 264, 265, 267, 270, 297 
Farrar, Geraldine, 181 
Farrar, John, 67 
Faulkner, William J., 312 
Federal Bureau of Investigation, 323, 
324, 326, 346 

Federal Council of Churches of Christ, 
166, 330 

Feinbere, William, 232 
Ferrer, Mel, 338 
Fess, Simeon D., 113 
Field, Geoige, 301, 302 
Field, Marshall, 2^ 

Fifteenth Amendment, 85, 88 
Filibuster, see Congress 


Fire in the Flint, 67-68, 69, 80 
Fisk University, 133, 312 
Flagstad, Kirsten, 181 
Flight, 80 
Ford, Edsel, 213 
Ford, Mrs. Edsel, 212 
Ford, Henry, 21 1 
Ford Motor Company, 211-17 
Forrest, Nathan Bedford, 54 
Fourteenth Amendment, 87, 88 
Fraenkel, Osmond K., 13 1 
France, 50, 61, 308; colonial system of, 
62-63; defended in French Equa- 
torial Africa, 258-61; falls, 258; and 
Fire in the Flint, 68; and Haiti, 117, 
1 18; Sorbonne, 117 
Frank, Leo M., lynched, 25-26, 52-53 
Frankfurter, Felix, 156, 188 
Freedom House, 301 
Freedom Train, 349-52 
Freeman, Douglas Southall, 154 
French Revolution, 236 

Gaines, Lloyd, 143, 162 
Gannett, Lewis, 

Garfield, John, 232 
Garland, Charles, 141 
Gavagan Anti-Lynching Bill, 172 
Gavagan, Joseph A., 123, 172 
General Electric Corporation, 332, 351 
General Federation or Women’s Clubs, 


General Motors Corporation, 190, 192, 

Gentry, Robert, 318 
Georgia, University of, 232 
Germany, 38, 68, 225, 250, 354, 366 
Gershwin, George, 43 
Gettysburg Address, 348 
Ghetto, see Housing 
Gibbs, William F., 163 
Gide, Andr6, 62 
Gillem, Alvan C., 252 
Gillette, Frederick H., 1 1 2 
Gilstrap, Max, 243, 246 
Gittelsohn, Roland B., 332 
Glass, Carter, 108 
GocTs Trombones, 97 
Goff, Guy D., 1 12 
Goode, Gerald, 181 
Goodman, Benny, 232 
Gordon, John B., 54 
Gordon, Max, 

yi% Index 

Grady, Henry W., Hospital, 135 
Graham, Frank P., 333 
“Grandfather clause,” 84-85 
Graves, John Temple, 206 
Gray, Andy, 341, 342 
Great Britain, 246, 247, 358, 359; and 
Arab states, 352; Chancellor of Ex- 
chequer, 96; Colonial Office, 61; 
Colonial Secretary, 357, 358; colonial 
system, 60-62; 357-58; empire, 97; 
England, 60-62, 68, 96-97, 119, 203, 
242, 247; Labour government, 61; 
and Negro soldiers, 247; Scotland, 
96; and slavery, 97 
Green, Nora, 222 
Green, William, 106, 193, 350 
Greensboro Daily News^ 104, 105, 107, 
i 59 » 173 

Griffith, David W., 355 
Grovey v. T ovmserid, 88, 89 
Grundy, Joseph R., 112 
Guam, 277-85 
Guild HaU of Hull, 96 
Gtunn V. United States, 85, 105 

Haas, Francis J., 332 
Haiti, 1 15, 140; and Americans, 117; 
Bishop of, 1 16; and Palestine parti- 
tion, 352-53, 355, 357; U. S. control, 
1 15, 1 16, 1 17, 118-19; U. S. prejudice 
against, 119 
Hale, Ruth, 43 
Hamilton, J. C., 82 
Hampton Institute, 275 
Hancock, Mabel D., 27 
Hansen, Harry, 167 
Harding, Warren G., 103 
Harlem Hospital, 63-64; riot, 233-40 
Harlem Labor Committee, 192 
Harper^ s, 13 1 
Harris, Albert, 323-24, 325 
Harris, John H., 96-97 
Harris, Lewis, Jr., 349 
Harrison, Earl G., 353 
Harrison, Pat, loi, 108 
Harvard Law Review, 143 
Harvard University, 37, 63, 84, 143, 
15^* * 7 * , 

Hasde, William H*, 88, 114, 143, 156, 
157. 15^58, I74» 188, 203, 220, 223, 


Hastings, Daniel O., 112, 113 
Hastings, Mrs. William H., 217 

Hatfield, Henry D., 113 
Hawaii, 273, 274, 276 
Hawkins, A. J., 127, 128 
Hayes, Helen, 338 
Hayes, Roland, 174, 180, 181 
Hays, Arthur Garfield, 75, 77, 79, 128, 

Hebert, Felix L, 113 
Heflin, “Tom-Tom,” 108 
Held, Lillian, 115 
Heller, George, 232 
Heilman, Lillian, 232 
Henderson, Leon, 217 
Henry, Patrick, 34 
Hcrsholt, Jean, 232 
Hill, Coleman, 68 
Hill, Oliver W., 1 14 
Hill, T. Arnold, 186, 187, 188 
Hillman, Sidney, 190 
Hilton, James, 232 
Hines, Frank T., 69, 70 
Hirohito, 220, 225, 339 
Hitler, Adolf, 68, 120, 189, 190, 201, 220, 
225, 228, 229, 258, 259, 263, 296, 339, 

345 » 354 » 3<55 
Hobby, William P., 46 
Hocutt, Thomas, 156 
Hodges, Courtney, 249 
Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 86 
Holt, Felix, 77 

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 274 
Hooton, Earnest A., 267 
Hoover, Herbert, 81, loi, 107, 139; 
attitude toward Negroes, 104, 105, 

Hope, Edward S., 273 
Hope, John, 31, 34, 174, 273 
Hopkins, Miriam, 232 
Horkan, George, 341, 342 
Horne, Lena, 232, 338 
Horton, James E., 131 
House of Representatives, see Congress 
Housing, 44-46, 72, 227, 263, 268, 304- 
307; and race clashes, 73, 224, 227, 
228, 240 

Houston, Charles H., 142-43, 152-56, 
171, 178, 307 

Howard, David T., High School, 38 
Howard, Rojr, 167 

Howard University, iii, 182, 273, 358; 

Law School, 154, 193, 282 
Howell, Clark, 6 
Hughes, Charlies Evans, 34 



Hughes, Langston, 43 
Hungary, 366 
Hunt, Henry A., 174 
Hurok, Sam, 181, 182 
Hylan, John F., 64 

Ickes, Harold, 1 81, 182 
Imperialism, 60, 61, 62, 115, 264; ex- 
ploitation under, 97 
Independent Voters League, 316 
India, 60 
Indonesia, 290 

Institute for Government Research, 

Institute of Pacific Relations, 103 
Institute of Tropical Medicine, 291 
Intermarriage, 4, 63, 157 
International Congress of Women, 359 
International Labor Defense, 128, 129- 
130, 131 

International Ladies Garment Work- 
ers, 301 

Italy, 94, 1 19, 254, 255-58 

Jackson, Robert H., 145 
Japan, 68, 69, 103, 189, 220, 252, 258, 
271, 274, 278, 283, 290, 296; Hiro- 
shima, 304 
Japanese, see Japan 
Java, 290 

Jayne, Ira W., 75, 226 
Jefferson, Thomas, 118 
lejfersonian, The, 26 
Jeffries, Edward J., 226, 230 
Jews, see Anti-Semitism 
Johnson, Campbell, 188 
Johnson, George M., 193, 203, 307 
Johnson, Grace, 43, 176 
Johnson, Harry, 253 
Johnson, James Weldon, 32, 33, 34, 35, 
37» 39» 65, 75, 93, 103, 1 15, 133, 

141, 174, 342, 359; at home, 43; be- 
fore Congress, 42; elected NAACP 
secretary, 47; GocTs Trombone s, 97; 
investigates Washington race riot, 
44; last NAACP speech, 175-76; re- 
signs as NAACP secretary, 115; 
wife, see Johnson, Grace 
Johnson, John H., 237, 239 
Johnson, Rosamond, 32, 115 
Johnston, Eric, 350, 360 
Johnston, Mary, 180, 181 
Johnston, Olin D., 90 

Jones, Donald, 309 
Jones, John, lynched, 323-24 
Jones, Madison, 325 
Jones, Scipio H., 47, 50 
Julian, Percy, 174 
Just, Ernest E., 174 

Kalish, L, 23 
Kansas City Call, 162 
Keith, Arthur, 364 
Kennedy, Lloyd, 318, 319 
Key, James L., 31-32 
Killian, James E., 244 
Kirk, Normal, 292 
Knights of Columbus, 333 
Knollenberg, Fred C., 86 
Knopf, Alfred, 43, 67 
Knopf, Blanche, 43 
Know-Nothings, 354 
Knox, Frank, 190, 191, 220 
Knudsen, William S., 190, 192 
Konvitz, Milton, 358 
Ku Klux Klan, 8, 53-59, 73, 129, 149, 
318, 341, 354, 355, 356, 360, 365; at 
Aiken, South Carolina, 57-59; and 
Hugo Black, 178, 179; in Detroit, 224, 
225; in North, 56; at Tuskegee Insti- 
tute, 69-70; in Walton County, 
Georgia, 323; and Walter White, 56 

Labor, see Employment 
La Follette, Suzanne, 167 
La Guardia, Fiorello H., 189, 192, 230, 
236-37» 238, 239 
Lampkin, Daisy, 228 
Lane, 1. L., 85 
Lane, Layle, 192 
Lane, W. Preston, 140, 141 
Langier, M., 359 
Lannam, Charles, 251 
Larsen, Nella, 167 
Lassabliere, M., 93 
Lawrence, Jock, 243 
Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, 313, 317, 

League of Nations, 96, 297 
Le Clerc, C. V. E., 1 18, 259 
Lee, Canada, 338 

Lee, John C. H., 243, 247, 249, 252 
Lee, Robert E., 154 
Legal defense, see Courts 
Legislation, federal, aid to education, 
177; anti-lynching, 42, 120-24, 139, 



140, 166, 167-68, 170, 171, 172, 173, 
263, 264, 269; anti-poll tax, 133, 139, 
263, 264, 269; fair employment prac- 
tice, 139, 194, 263, 264, 270 
Lehman, Herbert H., 188 
Leibowitz, Samuel S., 131, 132 
Leonard, Wilmore B., 161 
Lever Brothers, 332 
Levinson, Eddie, 213 
Levy, Eva, 43 
Levy, Newman, 43 
Lewis, Ira, 203 
Lewis, John L., 211 
Lewis, Sinclair, 43 
Liberia, 140, 352, 353, 355, 357 
Lie, Trygve, 339 
Lincoln, Abraham, 348 
Lincoln Memorial, 181-85, 346 
Lincoln University, Missouri, 162 
Lipper, Ruth, 205 
Lippmann, Walter, 217 
Logan, Rayford, 358 
Lonff, Huey, 83 

Looby, Z. Alexander, 310, 311, 312, 
Lord, Roy, 243 
Louis, Joe, 176, 237 
Louisville Courier -Journal^ 193 
L’Ouverture, Toussaint, 118 
Lovett, Edward, P., 153, 155 
Lowell, James A., 152 
Lowman family, lynched, 56, 58-59 
Luckman, Charles, 332 
Lynching, 3, 7, 27, 36, 69, 72, 84, 85, 
93* 94* 97* 98, 102, 120, 139, 142, 162, 
207, 235, 260, 264, 265, 268, 308, 317, 
323; Aiken, South Carolina, 56, 58- 
59; attempted, 51, 319-20; Columbia, 
Tennessee, 166; condoned by Gov- 
ernor Rolph, 166; Costigan-Wamer 
Bill, 140, 167, 168-70; Duck Hill, 
Mississippi, 123, 172; editorial com- 
ment, 42; federal legislation, 42, 120- 
124, 140, 167, 168-70, 171, 263, 269; 
Florida, 55; of Leo Frank, 25-26, 51- 
52; of Jim Mcllherron, 40-43; Min- 
den, Louisiana, 323-24, 330; Monroe, 
Georgia, 322-23, 330; new tech- 
niques, 102; Phillips County, Arkan- 
sas, 48; reasons for, 43, 178; Rope md 
Faggoty 94; San Jose, California, 166, 
167; Scottsboro case, 126-27; of John 

Shillady, 47; statistics, 42-43, 102, 
166; Texas, 271; Truman denounces, 

MacArthur, Douglas, 287-88 
McQendon, James J., 213, 215 
McConaughty, James L., 362 
McCord, Jim, 312 
McCoy, Cecil A., 156 
McCulloch, Roscoe C., 112, 113 
MacDonald, Ramsay, 61 
McGill, Ralph, 217 
McGill University, 63 
McHenry, Jackson, 30 
Mcllherron, Jim, lynched, 40-43 
McIntyre, Marvin, 168, 170 
McKellar, Kenneth, 108, 173, 177, 269 
McKiven, John, 318 
MacLeish, Archibald, 295 
McMahon, Aline, 231, 232 
McNary, Charles L., 189 
McReynolds, James C., 87 

Macon Daily Telegraph, 68, 110 
Ma^ee, Joe, 271, 272 
Mahon^, Charles, 77 
Mann, Thomas, 232 
March, Fredric, 338 
March on Washington, 189, 190, 191, 

Mar^old, Nathan R., 142 
Marinoff, Fania, 43, 338 
Marshall, George C., 229, 249, 315 
Marshall, Lenore, 167 
Marshall, Louis, 53, 315 
Marshall, Thurgood, 88, 114, 151, 154, 
174, 228, 229, 230, 307, 31 1, 319 
Martin, Eugene, 196 
Martin, Homer L., 212 
Marx, Groucho, 232 
Maryland State Colored Teachers As- 
sociation, 163 
Mason and Dixon line, 98 
Matthews, Francis P., 333 
Medical care, discrimination, in Grady 
Hospital, 135-36; New York Qty, 
63-64; Tuskeffee, 69 
Mencken, H. L., 65, 67 
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 202 
Michigan, University of, 63 
Middle East, 246, 296 
Migration, 72 

Mifiay, Edna St. Vincent, 43 


Miller, Kelly, iii 
Miller, Loren, 307 
Ming, Robert, Jr., 307, 358 
Minor, Robert, 315-16 
Mitchell And-Lynching Bill, 172 
Mitchell, Arthur W., 172 
Mitchell, Clarence, 304 
Mitchell, “Billy,” 152, 191 
Mob violence, advocated by Bilbo, 
89; at Columbia, Tennessee, 309-11; 
deaths from, 226-27; at Detroit, 
224-30; and disfranchisement, 89; 
in Florida, 55; in Harlem riot, 233- 
240; and housing, 73; and race riots, 
44-45, 47-48; and Scottsboro case, 
126-27; and John Shillady, 46-47; 
see also Lynching 
Montgomery Advertiser , no 
Moody, Dan, 86 
Moody, Milo, 127 
Moore v. Dempsey y 53 
Morgan, Ralph, 232 
Morse, Wayne, 348 
Moskowitz, Belle, 99, 10 1, 102 
Moskowitz, Henry, 99 
Motion-picture industry, 199-203 
Moton, Robert R., 69-71, 81, 174, 290 
Muir, Jean, 232, 338 
Muni, Paul, 232 
Murphy, Alfred J., 75 
Murphy, Frank, 77, 78, 148, 175 
Murray, Donald, 160-61 
Murray, Philip, 193 
Mussolini, 94, 120, 339, 365 
Mutual Broadcasdng Company, 348 

Nash, Roy, 35, 39 
Nashville Banner, 41, 313, 314, 316 
NAACP, 3, 16, 29, 30, 32, 34, 35, 40, 
44t 49* 52* 53* < 55 * 93* 99* 100, 102, 
III, 140, 142, 174, 213, 226, 246, 271, 
277* 283, 336, 342, 344, 350, 355, 359; 
addressed by Truman, 348; Adanta 
Branch, 32; and Hugo Black, 79; 
and Borah nomination, 171-72; and 
Brownsville, Texas, riot, 102-103; 
Chicago conference, 265-68; and Co- 
lumbia, Tennessee, riot, 309-21; and 
Communists, 129-31, 344-47; and 
George Cra^ord case, 152-56; criti- 
cized by Negro press, 209; and De- 
troit auto workers, 212-19; Detroit 
Branch, 217, 228; and discrimination 


in education, 143-52, 156; and dis- 
criminadon on flood-control proj- 
ects, 80-81; and discrimination in 
N.Y. hospitals, 63-64; and disfran- 
chisement, 80-91; and extradition, 
152; finances, 141; and Lloyd Gaines 
case, 162; and Haiti, 115; headquar- 
ters, 301-303; and Thomas Hocutt 
case, 157-58; and Hollywood, 202; 
under James W. Johnson, 47; legal 
policy, 142; and March on Washing- 
ton, 189, 190, 191; membership, 35, 
102, 301, 303; and Minden, Louisiana, 
lynching, 323-25; and Mitchell Bill, 
172; and nomination of John J. 
Parker; 104-10; non-partisan policy, 
198, 346; and political prestige, 109; 
and politics, 112, 265; and restrictive 
covenant, 304-307, 362; at San Fran- 
cisco Conference, 295; and Scotts- 
boro case, 127-30, 132-33; and Sipuel 
case, 144-48, 149, 152; and Henry 
Sweet case, 79; and Ossian Sweet 
case, 75-79; and teachers’ salary fight, 
114, 163-^5; in Texas, 46; Texas Uni- 
versity Branch, 151; “Thirty Years 
of Lynching,” 42; and Tuskegee 
veterans’ hospital, 69; and United 
Nations, 358-59; and University of 
Maryland, 160; veterans’ bureau, 
303; Washington Bureau, 186, 208, 
330; and Isaac Woodard, 326-27 
National Broadcasting Company, 348 
National Association of Manufactur- 
ers, 295 

National Committee for Justice in 
Tennessee, 314-15 

National Congress of Parents and 
Teachers, 217 

National Emergency Committee 
Against Mob Violence, 329-30 
National Farmers Unon, 217 
National Guard, 80, 309, 362 
National Labor Relations Board, 215, 

National Lawyers Guild, 228 
National Maritime Union, 237 
National Negro Congress, 347 
National Urban League, 142, 186 
National Workers League, 225 
Nationalism, 62 
Navy, see Armed Forces 
Negro, and anti-Semitism, 355; in 



Negro— Cewifiwttet/ 

^kansas, 47'*49; in Atlanta, 5-38; in 
Chicago, 44-46, 306; and crime re- 
ports, 6, 43, 49, 58, 126-29, 131, 152, 
155, 179, 225, 244, 271, 284-85; in 
Detroit, 73, 211-19, 224-30; disfran- 
chised, 30, 84, 85-89, 89-91, 105, 106; 
economic problems, 72; and Fif- 
teenth Amendment, 85-86; in films, 
201; flood refugees, 80; in Florida, 
55; and Ford Motor Company, 21 1- 
217; and foreign propaganda, 36; 
in France, 63; and “grandfather 
clause,” 84, 85; hostility to whites, 
3; and intermarriage, 157; and jury 
prejudice, 78; and labor unions, 
2 1 1, 213-19, 224, 363; March on 
Washington, 189, 190, 191, 193; in 
middle class, 214; migration, 72; in 
Mississippi flood, 80-8 1; in New 
York, 233-40, 306, 362; and poll tax, 
33; press, 206-10, 317; problem as 
war propaganda, 260, 290; problem 
interpreted abroad, 97, 115, 297-98, 
347. 357; propertjr destroyed, 73, 
311; and public opinion, 73; on re- 
lief, 140; “passing,” 3-4, 36, 80, 107; 
and restrictive covenants, 73, 306- 
307; sections in cities, 44-46, 72, 227, 
305-307; and Seventeenth Amend- 
ment, 85-86; and social equality, 157, 
308; steelworkers, 211; stereotyped, 
4, 65, 66, 199-203, 338-39; strike- 
breakers, 211, 213-16; teachers, 114, 
163-65, 362; and UAW-CIO, 213- 
219; and “understanding clause,” 84, 
85; vote a factor in politics, 7-8, 
loo-ioi, 104, 1 1 1-14, 139, 171-72, 
188, 262, 268, 363; and white prim- 
ary, 85-91; in World War I, 36, 102; 
see also Armed Forces, Courts, 
Education, Employment, Police, 

Negro Digest^ 360 

Negro Newspaper Publishers Associa- 
tion, 208, 209 

Neilson, William Allan, 336-37 

Nelson, Walter, 77 

New Jersey, 361, 362 

New York City, 241; Department of 
Markets, 240; Housing Authority, 
306; medical care, 63-64; Police De- 
partment, 55, 56, 188, 230, 236, 239; 

Public Library, 301 
New York Evening Post, 213 
New York Herald Tribune y 166, 317 
New York Post, 285, 355 
New York State, 46, 99, 100, 101 
New York Times, 109, 110 
New York World, 56, 68 
New York World-Telegram, 167, 347 
Nicaragua, 32 
Nice VEclaireur, 94 
Niles, David K., 331 
Nimitz, Chester, 103, 272-73 
Nixon, L. A., 86, 87 
Nixon V. Herndon, 83 
Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch, no 
North Harlem Medical Association, 64 
Novins, Louis, 349 

Nurses, New York City hospitals, 63- 
64; Tuskegee veterans* hospital, 69 

Oboler, Arch, 232 
O’Day, Caroline, 183, 184 
Office of Price Administration, 217, 

Office of Production Management, 190 
Office of War Mobilization, 266 
Omaha, Nebraska, race riot, 44 
Ordinances, zoning, 72, 304 
Overman, Lee S., 106 
Ovid, 259 

Ovington, Mary White, 35, 65, 140, 


Pace, Harry, 30, 31, 32 
Packard Motor Company, 224 
Palais des Papes, 96 
Palestine, 296, 299, 360; partition and 
United Nations, 352-53, 355. 357 
Paley, William S., 231 
Pan-African Congress, 60-63 
Parker, John J., 91, 104-10, 111, 112, 
113, 114, 120, 156, 163 
“Passing,” 3-4, 24, 36, 80, 107; by Wal- 
ter White, 39-51, 59, 76, 360 
Patterson, Robert P., 103, 190, 191, 
220, 222 

Patterson, Mrs, Robert, 350 
Patterson, Roscoe C., 113 
Patton, George, 249, 251 
Patton, James G., 217 
Peabody Award, 232 
Pearl Harbor, 206, 220, 271, 273 
Pearson, Conrad O., 156 


Pcglcr, Westbrook, 167 
Peonage, 97; in Mississippi, 80-8 1 
Penn, William F., 31 
Penniman, Josiah H., 18 1 
Pennsylvania, University of, 63, 181, 

Pepper, Qaude, 270 
Perkins, William, 246, 247 
Perry, Julian, 77 
Perry, Leslie, 330, 358 
Petion, Alexandre, 118 
Phelps-Stokes Fund, 314, 330 
Phi Beta Kappa, 143 
Philadelphia, race riot, 44 
Philippine Islands, 278, 296, 353, 355 
Phillips County, Arkansas, race riot, 
44; riot investigated, 47-51; victims 
tried, 49-53, 128 

Physicians, New York City hospitals, 
63-64; Tuskegee veterans’ hospital, 

Pickens, William, 107, 130 
Pillow, William, 318, 319 
Pittsburgh Courier^ 203, 344 
Pochy, Jules, 95 
Poindexter, Hildrus, 290-92 
Poland, 354 

Poletti, Charles C, 258-59 
Police, at Aiken, South Carolina, 325- 
326; at Beaumont, Texas, 222; at 
Columbia, Tennessee, 309-11, 314, 
319-20; in Detroit, 73, 224, 226-27, 
228-30; fail to provide protection, 
73; in Louisiana, 222; in Michigan, 
228, 229; in Montgomery, Alabama, 
222; in New York City, 55, 56, 188, 
230, 233, 236, 239; and George Schuy- 
ler, 81-82; techniques, 308-309; in 
Vicksburg, Mississippi, 81-82 
Political control, and attempted dis- 
franchisement, 55; after Civil War, 
®4; “grandfather clause,” 84-85, 
105; Grove y v. Townsend^ 88, 89; 
Guinn v, US,y 85, 105; NAACP a 
factor. III, 1 12, 171-72, 265-68; Ne- 
gro a factor, 7-8, loo-ioi, 104, iii- 
114, 139, 171-72, 188, 262-68, 363; and 
Negro vote in New York, 99-101; 
Nixon V. Herndon, 83; in North 
Carolina, 89-91; in Oklahoma, 84-85; 
and patronage, 100; and poll tax, 33, 
84, 91, 105; by registration, 85; Smith 
V, Allwright, 83, 89, 90; in South 


Carolina, 105, 106; Southern, in 
Congress, 84, 107-108, 120, 169; in 
Texas, 85-89; and “understanding 
clause,” 84-85, 91, 105; and United 
States Supreme Court, 83, 85-89; 
and white primary, 83, 84, 86-91, 

Poll tax, 33, 84, 85, 91, 105, 265; federal 
legislation against, 133, 139, 263, 264, 
2(^, 348 

Poliak, Walter H., 13 1 
Population, see Negro 
Populist Party, 7 
Post, Langdon, 306 
Powell, Adam, 237 

Powell, Leah Gladys, see White, 

Powers, Marcella, 338 
Prairie View State College, 193 
President’s Committee on Civil Rights, 
332 - 33 » 348* 351 

Press comment, 149; anti-Negro in 
Hawaii, 274; and Columbia, Tennes- 
see, riot, 316-17; and Fire in the 
Flinty 68; ignores Isaac Woodard, 
328; on lynching, 42; of Negro press, 
1 13-14; and Parker case, 108-109, iio- 
1 1 1 ; and Sweet case, 77 
Price-Mars, Joseph, 118 
Price, Victoria, 126, 128, 131 
Princess Anne, Maryland, lynching, 
140, 166 

Progressive Farmers and Household 
Union of America, 48 
Proskauer, Joseph, loi 
Public opinion, 73, 79, 102, 159, 172- 
173, 187, 312, 329, 331 

Quakers, 96-97 

Race differences, 363-66 
Radio Corporation of America, 193, 

Rainey, Homer, 150 
Randolph, A. Philip, 142, 186, 187, 188, 
189, 190, 192, 193 
Randolph, Richetta G., 35, 39 
Rankin, John E., 123, 268, 352 
Ransom, L. A., 114, 153, 155, 306, 313 
Rape, see Crime 
Rayburn, Sam, 266 
Raymond Harry, 314, 319 
Reader^s Digest, 206, 360 



Reco, Charles, 222 
Reconstruction Era, 314, 355 
Redding, Louis L., 171 
Reed, &vid A., 113 
Reed, Stanley, in 
Registration, of Negro voters in Ok- 
lahoma, 85 
Reid, Helen, 317 
Reissie, Frederick 330 
Republican Party, 7, 31, 1 12-13, 

263, 265, 267-68, 270, 345, 346; and 
Borah, 171-72; and Wendell Willkie, 

Restrictive covenants, 72, 142, 240, 304- 
305, 306-307 

Reuther, Victor, 333, 334, 335 
Reuther, Walter, 217, 219, 334, 335 
Rice, Elmer, 232 

Richardson, Robert C., Jr., 273, 274, 

Richmond News Leader, 154 
Richmond Times-Dispatch, 154, 173, 

Riots (and race riots), 27, 67, 160, 
308; Atlanta, 6, 8, 9-12; basic causes, 
240; Beaumont, Texas, 222, 234, 235; 
Brownsville, Texas, 102-103; Chi- 
cago, 44-46; Columbia, Tennessee, 
309-11; Detroit, 217, 224-30, 231, 235; 
economic factors, 44-45, 47-48; 

Guam, 277; New York City, 233-40; 
Omaha, 44; Philadelphia, 44; Phil- 
lips County, Arkansas, 44, 47-53; and 
political control, in; published 
abroad, 94; at Sojourner Truth 
Homes, 224; Washington, D.C., 44 
Rising Wind, A, 205 
Ritchie, Albert C, 140 
Roache, Captain, 275 
Roberts, Mrs. Henry M., 180 
Robeson, Paul, 92, 174, 232 
Robinson, Edward G., 232 
Robinson, Joe, 169 
Robinson, Joseph T., loi, 108 
Robson, William N., 231 
Roddy, Stephen R^ 127 
Rolph, James, 166, 167 
Roosevelt, Eleanor, 168-69, 

190* *99» 3*4. 315. 348, 359 
Roosevelt, Franklin D., 100, 103, 115, 
139, 166, 182, 198, 200, 207-208, 233, 
246, 262, 266, 268, 269, 299, 330, 331; 
appoints Hugo Black, 177-78; atti- 

tude toward and-l^nching legisla- 
tion, 168-70; and discrimination in 
national defense, 186-93 
Roosevelt, Franklin D., Jr., 333 
Roosevelt, Sara Delano, 168, 169 
Rope and Faggot, 94, 98; criticism, 98 
Rose, Billy, 232 
Rosenberg, Anna, 188, 190 
Rosenthal, Jonas, 232 
Rosenwald Fund, 103, 338 
Rossen, Robert, 232 
Rowlette, Cecil O., 77 
Roxborough, John, 176 
Royall, Kenneth C., 251 
Russell, Charles Edward, 140 
Russell, Elbert, 133 
Russell, Richard B., 173 
Russia, 68, 69, 203, 249, 303, 345, 352, 

354» 358, 359 
Rutledge, Wiley, in, 147 

Sacco-Vanzetd case, 94 
St. George’s Episcopal Church, 181 
Su Louis FosuDispatch, 317 
St, Louis Woman, 338, 339 
St. Martin’s Protestant Episcopal 
Church, 237 

San Francisco, 271, 293; (inference, 

San Jose, California, lynching, 166, 167 
Sandburg, Carl, 44-45 
Sanford, Edward T., 103 
Samoff, David, 193 
Saturday Review of Literature, 206 
Saxton, Eugene, 67 
Saxton, John, 67 
Scarlett, William, 133 
Schall, Thomas D., 109 
Schiefflin, William Jay, 133 
Schuyler, George S., 81-82 
Scodand, see Great Britain 
Scottsboro case, 125-33, 345 
Scottsboro Defense Committee, 132 
Seawell, A. A. F., 157 
Segregadon, 268; in American ReJ 
Cross, 292; attempted in France, 
63; economic factors, 72; in elec- 
don campaigns, 100; on Freedom 
Train, 351-52; in Grady Hospital, 
135-36; and migradon, 72; and 
Negro press, 210; proposed for 
New York hospitals, 64; and pub- 
lic opinion, 73; synonymous with 




discrimination, 148; in travel, 21, 
142; at Tuskegee veterans* hospital, 
69; in Washington, D.C., 140; see 
also Armed Forces, Education, 

Selective Service Act, 186, 188, 189 
Seligmann, Herbert, 115 
Senate, see Congress 
Shaw, Anna Howard, 34 
Sheean, Vincent, 317 
Sherrill, Henry Knox, 332 
Shillady, John, beaten, 46; death, 47; 
secretary of NAACP, 39, 40, 44, 46- 

Shishkin, Boris, 330, 331, 332 
Shortridge, Samuel M., 113 
Shumlin, Herman, 232 
Sierra Leone, see Africa 
Simon and Schuster, 333 
Simon, Lord John, 96 
Simon, Lady, 97 
Singh, J. J., 338 

Sipuel, Ada Lois, 144-48, 149, 152 
Skouras, Spyros, 302 
Slaton, John M., 26 
Slavery, in British empire, 96; slave 
trade, 97; in United States, 97 
Slums, see Housing 
Smart Set, The, 65 
Smith, Alfred £., 99 
Smith College, 336, 337 
Smith, “Cotton Ed,” 108, 168, 173, 177 
Smith, Ferdinand, 237 
Smith, Gerald L. K., 225 
Smith, Hoke, 6-8 
Smith, Jim, 150 
Smith, Lillian, 338, 339 
Smith, Lonnie £., 88 
Smith v. Allwright, 83, 89, 90 
Smith, W. Bedell, 249 
Snowden, Philip, 61 
Sojourner Truth Homes, 224 
Soldier, see Armed Forces 
Solomon Islands, 290 
Sorbonne, 117 
Soviet Union, see Russia 
South America, 258 
Southern Voters League, 225 
Spencer, Kenneth, 338 
Sperry Gyroscope Company, 269 
Spingam, Arthur B., 29, 79, 86, 107, 115, 
140, 142 

Spingam, Joel, 174 
Spingam Medal, 174, 181, 267 
Sproul, Robert Gordon, 221 
Stalin, Joseph, 345 
Stallings, Laurence, 68 
Standard Life Insurance Company, 25, 
26, 28, 29, 34, 35 
Starr, Roger, 221 
“States* rights,** 123 
Stephens, P. H., 125, 127 
Stephenson, Gladys, 310, 311 
Stephenson, James, 310, 311 
Stereotype, fallacious, of the Negro, 
4» 65, 67, 338-39; improved, 232; in 
the movies, 199-203 
Stern, G. B., 92 
Stettinius, Edward, 295, 296 
Stimson, Henry L., 190 
Stokowski, Leopold, 18 1 
Stolberg, Benjamin, 166 
Storey, Moorfield, 52, 53, 85, 140 
Strange Fruit, 338, 339 
Stratton Bill, 354 
Stribling, T, S., 65 
Studin, Charles, 75, 99, 100, 102 
Sumatra, 290 

Sumners, Hatton W., 123, 172 
Supreme Court, see United States Su- 
preme Court 
Sutherland, George, 87 
Swanhmore College, 340 
Sweatt, Hemon Marion, 144, 148-52 
Sweet, Gladys, 73, 79 
Sweet, Henry, 79 
Sweet, Ossian, 73-79 
Swift, Idella M., 27 

Taft, Robert A., 265 
Taft, William H., 105 
Talmadge, Eugene, 268, 322, 352 
Talmadge, Herman, 360 
Tammany Hall, 84 
Tapley, Bayard, 312-13 
Teachers College, New York, 165 
Temple Emanu-El, i8i 
Tennessean, 313 
Texas, University of, 149-51 
Thirteenth Amendment, 48 
Thomas, Edna, 338 
Thomas, R. J., 213, 224-25 
Tibbett, Lawrence, 181, 232 
Tierney, Jack, 341, 342 
Tilly, Mrs. M. E., 217, 333 



To Secure These Rights, 333 
Tobias, Channing, 314, 330, 331, 333 
Tomorrow Always Comes, 295 
Toms, Robert M., 78 
Toomer, Fred, 24 
Town Hall, 180 

Truman, Harry S., 189, 252, 299, 330, 

Tucker, Sophie, 115 
Turner, Frank M., 35 
Tuskegee Army Air Forces training 
school, 222, 365 

Tuskegee Institute, 69-71, 81, 133, 354 
Twentieth Century-Fox, 200, 201, 202, 

Tyson, James G., 153, 155 

Ulm, A. H., Ill 
Underground Railway, 94 
Union of South Africa, 358, 359 
United Auto Workers, CIO, 212-19, 
^24» 333-35 

United Mine Workers, 21 1 
United Nations, 294; Charter, 298, 299, 
300; Human Rights Commission, 359; 
and NAACP petition, 358-59; and 
Palestine, 352, 353, 355, 357; Trustee- 
ship Council, 299; and United States 
delegation, 294, 297 
United Press, 316 
United Sons of Dixie, 318 
United States, 32, 34, 53, 60, 61, 84, 85, 
94, 97, 1 18, 154, 210, 220, 222, 240, 
241, 247, 258, 261, 262, 274, 295, 296, 
i97» 298, 300* 3i2» 349» 350* 352> 354» 
358; control in Haiti, 115, 116, 117; 
delegation to San Francisco Confer- 
ence, 294, 297; foreign policy, 119, 
264, 347; and international leader- 
ship, 299-300 

United States Chamber of Commerce, 


United States Department of Educa- 
tion, 150 

United States Employment Service, 
267, 270 

United States Government Printing 
Office, 333 

United States State Department, 295, 
297» 348 

United States Supreme Court, 33, 52- 
53» 77» 90, 9U 106, III, 128, 154, 156, 
159, 171, 182, 183, 305; and Arkansas 

riot case, 53; Black appointed to, 
177-79; Buchanan v. Warley, 72; and 
James F. Byrnes, 267; and city zon- 
ing ordinances, 72, 304; and discrimi- 
nation in schools, 143-45; 
franchisement, 83, 85-89, 102; and 
Leo Frank case, 26, 52-53; Gaines 
decision, 144, 162; Grove y v. Town-' 
send, 88, 89; Guinn v. C/.S., 85, 105; 
Moore v. Dempsey, 53; Nixon v. 
Herndon, 83; and restrictive cove- 
nants, 306, 362; and Scottsboro case, 
13 1 ; and Sipuel case, 144-45, 146, 147, 
148, 361 ; Smith v. Allwright, 83, 89, 90 
United States War Department, see 
Armed Forces 

Valentine, Lewis, 233, 236, 239 
Van Devanter, Willis, 86, 87 
Van Doren, Carl, 43, 115 
Van Doren, Irka, 43 
Van Vcchtcn, Carl, 92, 338, 360 
Van Vechten, Fania, 92 
Venezuela, 32 
Versailles Treaty, 297 
Veterans, 69, 303, 308, 309, 322, 323, 
325, 328; hospital at Tuskegee, 69 
Veterans Administration, 69 
Villard, Oswald Garrison, 140 
Vincent, Stenio, 117 
Vinson, Fred, iii 
Virginia Quarterly Review, 206 
Von Rundstedt, General, 248 
Von Windegger, F. R., 217 
Voyage au Congo, 62 

Wages, 83, 1 14, 163-65 
Wagner, Robert F., 83, 100, 109, 188, 

Walcott, Frederick C., 113 
Wallace, Henry, 266 
Walls, W. J., 349 
Wanger, Walter, 43, 200, 232 
War Manpower Commission, 188, 304 
Ward, Paul, 178 
Ware, Edward T., 27 
Waring, J. Wades, 90, 91 
Warner Brothers, 202 
Washington, Booker T., 175 
Washington, D.C., race riot, 44; segre- 
gadon, 140 

Washington Post, 110, 111, 317 
Watson, James E., 113 
Watson, Thomas E., 7-8, 26 


Weaver, Maurice, 309-10, 311, 313, 319, 

Weaver, Robert C., 307 
Webster, Edgar N., 27 
Webster, Milton, 193 
Welles, Orson, 232, 326 
Wells, H. G., 61-62 
Wescott, Glenway, 93 
West Indies, 60, 357-58 
West Point, 190 
West, Rebecca, 92, 93 
What Price Glory, 68 
Wheeler, Monroe, 93 
White, Edward D., 85 
White, George, father of WW, 5, 6, 

9, 13-14, 15-18, 20, 21, 22, 34, 35, 36, 

White, George, brother of WW, 5, 10, 

14, 70, 136, 175, 196 

White, Gladys, 65, 92, 102, 1 15-19, *20, 

175, 176, 183, 196, 203, 233, 336, 339, 

340» 34* 

White, Helen, 135, 196, 197 
White, Horace, 215 
White, Jane, 175, 183, 337“39» 3^o 
White, Madeline, mother of WW, 5, 

6, 10, 13-14, 15, 16, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 

34* 35* 37* *34, *75, *95“97 
White, Madeline, sister of WW, 135, 


White, Olive, 135, 196, 197 
“White” primary, see Political control 
White, Walter, and Aiken, South Caro- 
lina, lynching, 56-59; and Marian 
Anderson, 180-85; and anti-lynching 
legislation, 42, 120-24, 168-70; and 
Army and Navy racial policy, 186- 
194, 220-22, 247-48; and Hugo Black, 
177-79; and Borah nomination, 171- 
172; and British government, 60; and 
Chicago riot, 44-46; and children, 
336-43; college years, 22-26; and Co- 
lumbia, Tennessee, riot, 309-21; and 
George Crawford case, 153-56; criti- 
cized by Communists, 131-32; de- 
fense counsel before Navy Board of 
Inquiry, 282-85; and Detroit auto 
workers, 212-19; and Detroit riot, 
225-30; and Isadora Duncan, 92; in 
Dutch New Guinea, 288-90; early 
life, 3-2 1; and Felix Eboue, 259-60; 
iacapes death in Chicago, 45; escapes 
lynching, 51; and John Farrar, 67; 


Fire in the Flint, 65-69; Flight, 80; 
in France, 92-96; and Freedom Train, 
349-50; in Guam, 277-85; Guggen- 
heim Fellowship awarded to, 92; in 
Haiti, 1 15-17; and Harlem riot, 233- 
240; and T. Arnold Hill, 186, 187, 
188; and Mayor Jeffries, 230; and Ku 
Klux Klan, 53-59; and Fiorello La 
Guardia, 233, 236-40; and Douglas 
MacArthur, 287-88; and Jim Mc- 
Cord, 312-13; and lynching of Jim 
Mcllherron, 40-43; marries, 65; and 
H. L. Mencken, 65; and movie ster- 
eotype of Negro, 199-203; NAACP 
secretary, 115; and NAACP staff, 39; 
and Negro press, 207-209; and Wil- 
liam Allan Neilson, 336-37; and 
Chester Nimitz, 272-73; and Palestine 
partition, 352-53* 355* 35^, 357; at 
Pan- African Congress, 60; and Park- 
er nomination, 104-10; “passes,” 39- 
51; and Phillips County, Arkansas, 
riot, 47; political activities, 112-13, 
265-68; and A. Philip Randolph, 186- 
193; and Walter Reuther, 333-35; A 
Rising Wind, 205; and Eleanor 
Roosevelt, 168-69, 182-83; *90; and 
Franklin D. Roosevelt, 168-70, 186- 
193, 207-208; Rope and Faggot, 94; 
at San Francisco Conference, 294-99; 
and Scottsboro case, 127-30; and 
Alfred E. Smith, 99-101; and Fer- 
dinand Smith, 237; and Philip 
Snowden, 61; and Spingam Award, 
174-76; and Harry S. Truman, 189, 
299-300, 330-32, 347-49; war corre- 
spondent, 242-52, 253-61, 271-76, 277- 
293; and H. G. Wells, 61-62; and 
West Indies, 357-58; and Wendell 
Willkie, 198-205; and Isaac Wood- 
ard, 327-28 

White, Walter, Jr., 175-76, 183, 339 
“Why I Remain A Negro,” 360 
Wilbcrforce University, 79 
Wilhelmina, Queen, 289 
Wilkins, Roy, 81-82, 233, 237 
Williams, Aubrey, 190, 192 
Williams, Bert, 115 
Williams, Franklin, 303, 327 
Williamson, Mac Q., 145 
Willlde, Wendell, 187, 198-205, 231, 
262, 301, 302; Memorial Building, 
303* 3*4* 3^7 


Wilson, Butler R., 152 
Wilson, Charles E., 332, 350 
Wilson, Woodrow, 103 
Winant, John, 247 
Winchester and Winchester, 47-48 
Wirkus, Faustin, 116 
Wirth, Louis, 307 
Witherspoon Hall, 181 
Woltman, Frederick, 347 
Wolverine Bar Association, 228 
Woodard, Isaac, 325-28, 330 


World War II, 103, 133, i 45 . 3o8, 

344, 358; European theater, 103, 242- 
252, 253; North African theater, 253, 
258-61; Pacific theater, 103, 271-76, 
277-88, 288-93 

Wright, Louis T., 31, 37 f *74 

Wright, Richard, 174 

Writers League Against Lynching, 167 

Yale University, 30, 43, 63, 221 
Young Communist League, 356 

Woodward, Helen, i66 
World War I, Negroes in, 36, 44, 60, 
72, 102, 308, 357 

Zanuck, Darryl, 200, 360 
Zionism, 353